A pair of profiles on Jill Abramson, the rising executive editor of The New York Times, cultivate diligently the one qualifier reporters like to use to separate her from her predecessor. She's hip. And we're not talking Greenwich Village hip or even SoHo hip. Think Tribeca hip--that's where Abramson spends her Manhattan minutes--or even Williamsburg hip--she has a tattoo! Abramson also loves dogs, goes to indie rock shows and reads The Huffington Post on her iPad. "It's really jazzy," she told The Guardian.
The Guardian profile and its religious imagery-wrapped dopplegänger in The New York Observer are both worth reading if you're interested in Abramson. Bombastic at times about the top job at The Times, each focuses less on the paper of record and more on the first woman who will run it, again, mostly on how she's a rogue compared to outgoing executive editor Bill Keller. Here are some choice quotes, tag-teamed between the two papers' perspectives.
First, The Guardian expresses to its British readers the importance of Ambramson's new job:
The executive editor of the New York Times is about as close as it gets in America to royalty, discounting the president and Lady Gaga. Even in this fragmented era of Twitter, Google News and the blogosphere, the newspaper's chief still has the power to direct the national conversation, to move markets, unseat politicians, sanction wars and create Hollywood movie stars.
The New York Observer, footnoting Abramson's comparing her climbing of The Times masthead to the ascent of Valhalla:
In Norse mythology, admission to Odin’s golden palace required a mortal to perform feats of strength and acts of bravery in battle—which Ms. Abramson’s biography does not lack. She’s taken on hostile lawyers, conniving editors and a refrigerated truck on her way to becoming the first female executive editor in the paper’s 160-year saga.
“I think she has a lot of plate metal in her,” said New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, Ms. Abramson’s friend since high school, recalling Ms. Abramson’s long recovery from a broken leg and foot after being struck by a truck in Manhattan in 2007.
“She is bionic in many ways, even literally.”
The Guardian notes how Abramson discounts the "First woman to..." prefix:
"I know I didn't get this job because I'm a woman; I got it because I'm the best qualified person. But nonetheless what it means to me is that the executive editor of the New York Times is such an important position in our society, the Times itself is indispensable to society, and a woman gets to run the newsroom, which is meaningful."
Will it define the paper's direction under her in any sense?
"Possibly," she replies. "But I think everybody here knows what kind of stories excite me most: hard-edged, deeply reported investigative stories, rich on-the-ground international stories, so I don't think anyone is fearful that I'm going to bring soft news on to the front page."
The Observer makes sense of her love of dogs:
The puppy column illustrates what’s most groundbreaking about Ms. Abramson’s rise: she accomplished it without fully accommodating herself to the institution’s still largely male culture (especially at the managing editor level). She is stylishly dressed. She is proud to have played a crucial role in national security stories and is an unabashed fan of T Magazine.
“After 25 years of work as an investigative reporter and editor, I’m not too worried about being taken seriously,” Ms. Abramson told The Observer.
She wears her New Yorker-ness brazenly, proudly, on her sleeve. Or rather, under it – on her right shoulder where eight years ago she placed a tattoo to mark her return to New York city after a long stretch in Washington. It's a rendition of a New York subway token, an image she chose for its double resonance.
"Having grown up here I love the subway, take it everywhere," she says. "But the reason I picked it for my tattoo was also that on the outside rim of the token it says 'Good for one fare only' and that's my philosophy for life. So it's a perfect combination of a great philosophy and the city that I love and was born in."
The Observer bookmarks Abramson's best source of feedback:
It helps to have a family full of digital natives. After Ms. Abramson bought her daughter aTimes subscription, Ms. Griggs told her to cancel it a year later. “I was just recycling it,” Ms. Griggs said. She’s part of the generation that consumes all its news online or on mobile, she added. She and her boyfriend, who works in technology in New York, generate ideas and feedback for Ms. Abramson. She thinks engaging the online community in a savvier way should be a priority for the Times.
“The comments right now are sort of static,” said Ms. Griggs, “My mom knows I feel that way.”
The Guardian broaches the Twitter topic:
Abramson is in an awkward place when it comes to all this. She can hardly criticise Keller's take on Twitter, as she hasn't even got a Twitter account to call her own. She rather sheepishly admits that she has just set one up, but when I ask her when she did so she says: "Today, or yesterday."
Isn't it a bit weird, I suggest, that the next editor of America's most important paper, the person vested with the crucial task of steering it through a period of unparalleled digital change, hasn't even yet sent her first tweet?
"It may be weird," she says. "But I haven't felt the need until now. I'm an interior kind of person."
If Abramson and awesome aren't made synonymous by the writing in the two profiles, The Observer's accompanying artwork provides the visualization:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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