Q&A with New York Times' Jill Abramson and Bill Keller | MediaWorks - Advertising Age ⇢
If The NY Times and other mainstream newspapers are going to make the difficult transition to a web media world, changes will have to be made at the core of operations, not superficially. Jill Abramson seems to be all over that:
Jill Abramson, the next executive editor of The New York Times, and Bill Keller, who’s stepping down in September after eight years, talked Thursday about the state of the paper and what’s ahead.
Ms. Abramson focused on digital operations last year and found more than a couple ways it had to improve.
Advertising Age: What did you learn during your six-month stint last year diving deep into the online side? Was anything surprising?
Jill Abramson: It was somewhat surprising, but not completely surprising, is that although we felt we had integrated our newsroom, there was still basically something that everyone here called the web newsroom. The more I submerged into the web newsroom, I was some combination of surprised or worried that Bill and I were not really invested enough in the direction and news rhythm of our digital news report.
One thing I tried during the six months was to only read online. As I read more and more early in the morning I felt like everyone else was playing to win the morning, and we weren’t enough. Many sites, whether Politico or Bloomberg or another site, by like 6:30 in the morning were full of fresh stories. If breaking news had happened overnight, we covered it, but basically early in the morning we were an echo on the web of the six stories that were on the front of the print paper.
I think that in order to have an integrated newsroom, all the people who work on the news report have to feel that they have a real career track here. I think for our digital employees, especially web producers and some of the web editors, they felt like they loved their work but where were they going to go? They’d never covered cops for metro, that sort of thing. In the end my plan for the newsroom was that we dispersed the web producers and web editors and put them on the desks, so web producers that were working on business news now work for Larry Ingrassia, the business editor, after they had worked for a web editor.
Part of what I did was I went and visited a lot. Bill Keller came up with a great word — neo-competitors. That’s what he thinks sites like Politico and Huffington Post are. I went and spent a day at some of those. I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising but the largeness of the competitive field came to surprise me.
Our night note, the competition report which has been put out forever, would only mention what was on the front page of the Washington Post, maybe something from the Journal’s website, but never any mention of a Politico or a HuffPost or a Bloomberg. That has changed.
She really gets it. So I expect seismic changes to roll out from her appointment.
I also loved her quote, “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion. If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth.” This quote has gone missing, apparently, giving some fodder to religious and rightists alike.