In today’s New Yorker profile of Jill Abramson, it’s revealed that when it came time to name a replacement for Bill Keller at the New York Times, Abramson was seen as the frontrunner by Publisher Arthur Sulzberger. However, it was Abramson’s infamous assertiveness that ended up sealing the deal.
After Sulzberger had narrowed down his choices to three candidates — Abramson, Dean Baquet, and the editor of the Boston Globe, Martin Baron — he had dinner with each individually.
It was at this time that Abramson’s frankness separated her from the pack:
Abramson was candid with Sulzberger about her weaknesses. She recalls, ‘I said I needed to work on listening more and talking less, and not interrupting. I worried that questions I asked about the substance of journalism can come off as being critical.’ They talked about what she would do as editor, and she said that she would ‘be out and about in the newsroom,’ talking to reporters and editors. She composed a memorandum outlining her mission, if she should get the job. She recalls writing that she would maintain the paper’s ‘core mission’ of producing excellent journalism. Unlike Howell Raines, who wanted to transform the newsroom, Abramson preached newsroom continuity. She would create a new leadership team with ‘some new people.’ But her real innovations, she vowed, would be digital.
That honest approach, along with strong recommendations from Janet Robinson and Keller, ended up convincing Sulzberger, and the rest is history. Of course now comes the hard part for Abramson, but we’re confident she’s up to the task.