“Fondly, Jill and Dean”

Thursday, 15 May, 2014

That’s how executive editor Jill Abramson and managing editor Dean Baquet signed a memo to New York Times staff a week ago. The “Jill and Dean” bit was accurate, but the “fondly” was certainly not because Dean now has Jill’s job.

Why the dramatic fall from glory? Writing in the paper today, David Carr and Ravi Somaiyamay focus on this telling incident: “Mr. Baquet had become angered over a decision by Ms. Abramson to make a job offer to a senior editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install her alongside him in a co-managing editor position without consulting him.” The authoritarian personality was a factor, too, says Ken Auletta in the New Yorker. He notes that the reason Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the paper’s chairman and publisher, hesitated to appoint Abramson as executive editor “was a worry about her sometimes brusque manner.” And Auletta adds, “others in the newsroom, including some women, had the same concern.”

But back to that fond memo. It announced an “Innovation Report” (PDF 257KB) about the digital transformation of the New York Times newsroom. The report was the product of a six-month group effort led by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the son of the chairman and publisher.

“In the digital age, it is not enough to produce the best journalism in the world. Once we go up with a ground-breaking story, whether a scoop or a 2,500 word special report or video, this is not the end of our work in the newsroom. Publishing, in today’s crowded environment, includes taking responsibility for and assuming ownership of the impact of our quality journalism on our website, apps and other NYT platforms. That means training all of our journalists in how to use social media to report and amplify their stories. It means our most senior editors must plan and implement a rollout plan for our most important pieces. From the moment a story is published, we should host the conversation about it on NYTimes.com and related platforms.

The changes ahead will not be mysterious. The process will be transparent. We will soon be back to you with concrete next steps. With your help, we are excited about tackling the hard work ahead.


Jill and Dean

A week is a long time in media politics.

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