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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A splendid profile of the first woman to be named the editor of the New York Times

Once, it was preposterous to think that a woman could become the editor of the Times. When Eileen Shanahan, who went on to become a well-respected economics reporter, arrived for an interview with Clifton Daniel, the assistant managing editor, in 1962, she hid her desire to become an editor. “All I ever want is to be a reporter on the best newspaper in the world,” she told him.

“That’s good,” Daniel responded, as Shanahan told the story, “because I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.”

JILL ABRAMSON
This is one of the many gems in a New Yorker profile of the new executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, by the respected journalist and author Ken Auletta.

There is more in the same vein:
Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor, says that she kept thinking that when she joined the Times, in 1981, many Times women were “sad, bitter, angry people who were talented but who had been thwarted.” Editors openly propositioned young women.

After giving us this little bit of history, Auletta plunges wholeheartedly into the business of helping us to understand what makes Jill Abramson tick. It is a splendid profile, worth reading not only for its insights into the decision-making process at one of the world's great newspapers but also for the quality of the writing itself. How much time and effort must have gone into putting together the thousands of words that make up this article!

Read the profile in its entirety here: Changing Times.

PS: Here's Ken Auletta on how Abramson first made it to the Times:

When the [Clarence Thomas confirmation] hearings ended, Abramson wrote [to] Maureen Dowd, who covered them for the Times, a mash note. Dowd, who later became a columnist, sent back a mash note of her own. Some years later, Dowd told Abramson that she was looking for more women to join the Times. “You know any sensational women out there?” Dowd asked.

“Yeah, me!” Abramson shot back.

Dowd reported this to the Washington bureau chief, Michael Oreskes, who invited Abramson to lunch. She joined the Times in September, 1997, and in December, 2000, she was named Washington bureau chief.
  • In Talk to the Newsroom, a Q&A with Times editors, reporters, columnists, and executives, Jill Abramson offers some illuminating answers to questions posed by readers. Read especially her thoughts on whether young people will read newspapers and on how news affects real people.