Playing on Abramson’s line last Thursday that her new posting feels like “ascending to Valhalla,” The New York Observer’s Kat Stoeffel colorfully traces Abramson’s rise from Steve Brill’s legal publications to the top of the town. Stoeffel manages to get an incredible amount of detail, speaking to members of Abramson’s family about her career and home life, and outlining her friendships with Maureen Dowd and Jane Mayer. “She had great skirts,” Mayer says at one point, recalling her schooldays with Abramson.
It will surely feel like too much information to those who grumble about the celebrity-fication of the magazine editor—structurally, this feels like a Meryl Streep profile—but this is the Observer. It’s their town, this their beat, and they do it very well. And Stoeffel manages to connect her stories of the Abramson family dynamic to the challenges that mom faces in her new position. Here she is writing about concerns over how Abramson will handle the Times’s digital operations and ensure standards remain, well, standard, across the outlets numerous platforms. The Griggs quoted is Abramson’s daughter, Cornelia Griggs.
Here, Ms. Abramson’s split editorial personalities—the three books she’s written are a feminist history, a nonfiction book of political and judicial analysis and a puppy memoir, after all—could give her the fluency to mesh the Times’s disparate operations.
It helps to have a family full of digital natives. After Ms. Abramson bought her daughter a Times 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.
Stoeffel offers a hint too at what it might mean to have “the first woman” at the helm of the Times.
Ms. Abramson has a reputation for spotting and developing talent, especially among women. She lured star Washington reporter Helene Cooper from the Journal. She mentors younger female reporters and editors in the newsroom and offers casual guidance to her daughter’s friends in the industry. And she routinely pings Ms. Mayer when an issue of The New Yorker comes out without a single female byline.
For those who want the goss on Abramson, Keller, and Dowd
John Koblin at WWD takes a different approach. His is not a profile of Abramson but a consideration of how her reign might differ from Keller’s. The Times is as leaky a ship as ever and Koblin gets some good value from anonymous sources describing two very different approaches to editing. The gist: Keller was the strong silent type; Abramson strong and not-so-silent. Koblin focuses less on the challenges Abramson faces than the style with which she will face them.
“With Jill, it’s more about her,” said one senior editor at the Times, who requested anonymity. “When Bill is in the room, he sits there quietly. He doesn’t inject himself in the conversation, whereas Jill talks about herself or people that she knows. She’s just a much bigger presence in a meeting.” And it isn’t just in meetings, either. The source said that Abramson is “a lot more like Howell Raines,” the strong-willed executive editor before Keller who was pushed out of the paper after the Jayson Blair scandal (the irony in that, of course, is that Abramson and Raines famously feuded when he ran the paper and she ran the Washington bureau).
And then this:
“‘He just doesn’t care’” was a phrase heard over and over again from editors in the building — “unless they worked in foreign and perhaps metro,” said a Times source, referring to Keller. “The bored look on his face during many page one meetings was a signal to all in the room that he clearly wished he was elsewhere. Jill cares deeply, for better or worse, and will likely be a very hands-on executive editor.”