Opening Shot

Jill Abramson, the first woman at the helm of The New York Times

“OMG. It’s official, women run the world,” wrote Dennis M. Madison, a New York Times reader who posted a comment on the newspaper’s June 2 web story announcing that Jill Abramson would be its next executive editor, the first woman at its helm. His giddy hyperbole feels right. Despite intense financial pressure, the Times remains at the pinnacle of global journalism. Abramson vows to keep it that way. “Our primary function is to create the strongest, deepest, most interesting news report there is in the world,” she told Jim Lehrer in an interview on PBS NewsHour. She’s not a “mistakes were made” leader; she took personal responsibility for not pushing hard enough as Washington bureau chief to publish a story before the second Iraq war about how flimsy the claims of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were—a serious flaw of enormous consequence. A mother of two, Abramson has proved that she’s comfortable enough with her Harvard-educated self and her big-J Journalism credentials to reveal a softer side, for example by writing “The Puppy Diaries” blog, a web series about the intimate happenings of everyday life. But woman or man of whatever pedigree, the Times executive editor’s mettle will be tested. Abramson would do well to heed the second half of commenter Madison’s post: “I hope they do a better job than we did. Good luck.” 

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.