Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson is a self-described “tough-girl investigative journalist.” She’s reported for Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal, and served as Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. Last month, she became the Times first female executive editor. But there’s another side to Jill Abramson: she’s an unabashed dog lover. After adopting a new puppy two years ago, she started an online column about raising the high-spirited golden retriever named Scout. It covered such issues as adoption or rescue, raw diet or vegan, and which training techniques work best. Jill Abramson on her plans for The New York Times…and raising a puppy.

Guests

  • Jill Abramson executive editor of The New York Times

Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from “The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout” by Jill Abramson, published October 11th by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright 2011 by Jill Abramson. All rights reserved:

Transcript

  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Former managing editor of the New York Times, Clifton Daniel, once claimed no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times. It took half a century, but Jill Abramson has proven him wrong. She was named executive editor of the Gray Lady, just last month. But journalism is just one of her passions. She's also devoted to her white haired Golden Retriever.

  • 11:07:35

    MS. DIANE REHMJill Abramson has written a new book, part memoir, part investigative report, detailing her first year with Scout. The book is titled "The Puppy Diaries" and Jill Abramson joins me in the studio. I'm sure many of you can relate to what Jill writes about in developing not only a relationship with Scout, but trying to help him understand the rules of society. Welcome, Jill.

  • 11:08:16

    MS. JILL ABRAMSONThanks.

  • 11:08:16

    REHMSo glad to see you.

  • 11:08:17

    ABRAMSONThanks for having me.

  • 11:08:19

    REHMMy pleasure. You can joins us 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to drshow@wamu.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter. And Jill, congratulations on proving Clifton Daniel wrong.

  • 11:08:44

    ABRAMSONThank you, Diane.

  • 11:08:45

    REHMHe wasn't the only one.

  • 11:08:48

    ABRAMSONNo, that's for sure. I love looking at -- there's some documentary footage of old page one meetings from the '50s and '60s. And that's, you know, six men, most of them smoking in a room, deciding what will be on the front page of The New York Times the next day.

  • 11:09:07

    REHMAnd, of course, Scotty Reston was also one who declared no woman an editor.

  • 11:09:16

    ABRAMSONHe was that -- I think would be quite surprised to see me in this job, for sure.

  • 11:09:25

    REHMIn the midst of this extraordinarily busy career that you have had and have, how did this particular book come about?

  • 11:09:40

    ABRAMSONIt came about an online experiment, originally. When I was managing editor of The Times, two editors made an appointment to see me to talk about expanding pet coverage in The Times. And to talk to me about whether there was a Time-zian way to write about dogs and other pets. And we had just gotten Scout and I was gleary-eyed, you know, sleep deprived, kind of a nervous wreck.

  • 11:10:14

    ABRAMSONAnd instead of soliciting their ideas for how we could expand coverage, I deluged them with antidotes and funny stories about...

  • 11:10:24

    REHMAbout your own dog.

  • 11:10:26

    ABRAMSON...about -- and they just looked at me and they said you should write about this, Jill. And online, I started a column called The Puppy Diaries.

  • 11:10:35

    REHMI love it. Now, when you talk about Scout, Scout was not the first dog. There was Buddy, a West Highland Terrier and you've really touch on the grief you experienced at the loss of Buddy.

  • 11:10:56

    ABRAMSONWhich I think is, you know, a difficult thing for many people. And it's one, you know, that you worry that if you talk about it with your friends or other people, they're going to think you're kind of kooky to be...

  • 11:11:08

    REHMAnd sappy and all the rest...

  • 11:11:09

    ABRAMSONYeah.

  • 11:11:11

    REHM...of it.

  • 11:11:11

    ABRAMSONLike, you know, it's just a dog.

  • 11:11:12

    REHMYeah.

  • 11:11:13

    ABRAMSONBut, you know, as anyone who has a dog or has had a dog knows, you know, the human-dog bond is a very real, an intense one. And, you know, Buddy had brought so much pleasure and joy into our lives and lived to be 16. He, you know, lived with us here in the Washington area and, you know, was with me when I was Washington Bureau chief of The Times. And then, when I became managing editor, he became a Manhattan boy.

  • 11:11:45

    REHMDid you take Buddy to work with you?

  • 11:11:49

    ABRAMSONI did once and it did not please some of my colleagues so I got turned in to the building patrol and was told in a very nice way no dogs allowed.

  • 11:12:02

    REHMToo bad, too bad. In the midst of loving Buddy and in the midst of having lost your father, you also had a terrible accident.

  • 11:12:21

    ABRAMSONI did, it's true. And, you know, I have to say, compared to the terrible accidents that other people, I know, have had, this one was not, you know, terrible in the scheme of things. And I'm completely recovered now. But I was actually run over by a truck in Time Square.

  • 11:12:43

    REHMRun over by a truck.

  • 11:12:44

    ABRAMSONI was. And I'm a lifelong, you know, I'm born and bred New Yorker, you know, and have always been incredibly careful crossing the street. I'm really not one of those people who's always in a hurry or looking at my cell phone when I'm on the street. So this came out of the blue and, you know, I broke a lot of bones. I was in the hospital, in intensive care for some weeks. And then I had to learn to walk all over again. I had -- I broke my femur, which is one of the largest bones in the body, and other bones and, you know, I was a mess for a while.

  • 11:13:23

    REHMAnd where was your dog?

  • 11:13:29

    ABRAMSONThe sad thing is, is that Buddy had passed away in March of that year. It was 2007 and this accident happened in May. So, you know, I was still in my very blue period following Buddy's death and feeling a little lonely because, you know, my kids, at that point, were out of the nest. My son actually graduated from college the day before I was run over. But, you know, a house that had been full of kids and a dog was suddenly kind of quiet and I was sad about that.

  • 11:14:07

    ABRAMSONBut probably lucky because, you know, just to learn to walk again took months and, you know, I wouldn't have been capable of walking a dog during that period.

  • 11:14:17

    REHMOf course. Then your husband, your family urged you to get another dog, but you were reluctant.

  • 11:14:26

    ABRAMSONI was. I'd just felt unready and, you know, I felt I could never love another dog the way I had loved Buddy. And, you know, I just thought here, you know, I have this incredibly busy job as managing editor of The Times where I have to sometimes pickup and run into the office and so why not enjoy, like, an empty nest and not having to take care of other people and constantly look at my watch and wonder how long has the dog been home alone?

  • 11:15:04

    ABRAMSONAnd I have to run back and, you know, walk the dog. And -- but, you know, my family began a very intensive lobbying campaign. It was on all fronts. Henry, my husband, had fallen in love with friends of ours' dog who was also a white Golden Retriever. And he loved that she loved to swim and fetch and, you know, was so playful and well behaved. My son started emailing me at the time, like, adore -- hopelessly adorable pictures from Pet Finders. My daughter, you know, made dates to look at shelters and thought up cute names for a new dog. It just -- it was relentless and it worked.

  • 11:15:53

    REHMAnd it finally worked so that you went to a breeder?

  • 11:16:00

    ABRAMSONYes.

  • 11:16:00

    REHMYou saw these puppies.

  • 11:16:03

    ABRAMSONA liter of irresistible puppies. When anyone now says to me they're going to a breeder just to look, I always think, forget about it. There's no way.

  • 11:16:13

    REHMThat's what I told my husband as well.

  • 11:16:16

    ABRAMSONBut you know, we were careful to go to a very reputable breeder...

  • 11:16:20

    REHMYeah.

  • 11:16:20

    ABRAMSON...Diane. Because as a fellow dog lover, I know, you know that over breeding is a terrible problem. Puppy mills are an awful problem. You know, many pet shops who still sell puppies get their puppies from pet mills. So it's important, you know, for both -- for the health of your dog and for others reasons too, to make sure you know that the breeder you're going to is reputable. So...

  • 11:16:50

    REHMDid you, at all, consider adopting from a shelter?

  • 11:16:55

    ABRAMSONI -- I did. Because, you know, Buddy was a West Highland white Terrier so he -- we got from a breeder too, long ago. And, you know, I was certainly aware of how many dogs need homes. And, you know, although not as many as were in the past euthanized, you know, there are dogs still being put to sleep.

  • 11:17:21

    ABRAMSONAnd, you know, I did not necessarily have my heart set on a puppy, but my husband did. My husband had just fallen in love with the dog of our friends. And because I doodled for so long, he took matters into his own hands and sent an initial application to the breeder.

  • 11:17:41

    REHMAnd now you do have Scout, a beautiful white Golden Retriever. You are now executive editor of The New York Times. Do you take your dog to work with you?

  • 11:17:59

    ABRAMSONStill not allowed. I would love to and I think that she would add a lot of fun and relaxation to our news room. But, you know, it's not permitted.

  • 11:18:11

    REHMIt's simply not permitted.

  • 11:18:12

    ABRAMSONSo -- it's so -- that's sad. I have friends who do bring their dogs to work and a little birdie told me, Diane, that Maxie occasionally makes appearances right here at your studio.

  • 11:18:25

    REHMNot anymore, Jill.

  • 11:18:27

    ABRAMSONNo.

  • 11:18:28

    REHMNot anymore.

  • 11:18:28

    ABRAMSONOh boy, I heard that she may have been banned, recently. But...

  • 11:18:33

    REHMPoor Maxie. Poor Maxie. Jill Abramson is with me and her new book "The Puppy Diaries" is all about raising a dog named Scout. When we come back, we're going to talk about raising other issues at The New York Times.

  • 11:20:04

    REHMWelcome back. If you've just joined us, Jill Abramson is with me. She is executive editor of the New York Times. She is also a great lover of dogs. And her newest book, which began as a series in the New York Times online, "The Puppy Diaries" is now in a book. And she is talking about her white Golden Retriever, a dog named Scout whose photograph is on the cover. And she is really just absolutely adorable.

  • 11:20:47

    REHMYou, Jill, have a reputation as a tough editor. And yet as Ken Auletta wrote in the New Yorker, I mean, this soft side of you is coming out. And is anybody going to take advantage of that, do you think?

  • 11:21:07

    ABRAMSONWell, I don't think they probably will try to take advantage, but, you know, back when I worked in Washington D.C., you know, I was well known for writing tough investigative pieces. And I remember occasionally, 'cause at that point my children were small, saying to people who were turning down my requests for interviews because I was supposed to be so tough and digging so deeply I would sometimes say to them, but I'm a Girl Scout troop leader, which I was.

  • 11:21:42

    ABRAMSONI mean, I think the thing about a journalist, like any professional, is that there are many sides and many dimensions to people. And they're not all one thing.

  • 11:21:55

    REHMYou did write a book with your dear friend Jane Mayer about Clarence Thomas after his confirmation. He is now what, celebrating his 20th anniversary. What are your thoughts today about Clarence Thomas?

  • 11:22:17

    ABRAMSONWell, my thoughts have turned to that time period because actually this past weekend was just the actual 20th anniversary. And there was an interesting symposium on the Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas hearings at Hunter College. And, you know, I think the lasting legacy of that, you know, controversy is, number one, you know, a lot of women were elected to the Congress in 1992. The hearings were in 1991 and that tableau of the all-male senate judiciary committee just seemed so out of touch to many Americans. So in '92 there were six women elected to the Senate. They were called the Anita Hill class.

  • 11:23:08

    ABRAMSONWhat I think of Justice Thomas is that, you know, he is certainly a reliably conservative vote on the court. His jurisprudence, you know, is pretty much in line with some of his other colleagues like Scalia and now Justice Alito and others. You know, he had, famously, a sign up during his early days as a justice. Because when he was having his confirmation hearings it was said that Clarence Thomas would surely evolve on the court. And he had a little sign on his desk that said, I ain't evolving.

  • 11:23:56

    ABRAMSONAnd, you know, he has been amazingly constant.

  • 11:24:00

    REHMConsistent.

  • 11:24:01

    ABRAMSONYes.

  • 11:24:02

    REHMDo you still believe he lied about relations with Anita Hill?

  • 11:24:09

    ABRAMSONWhat I do believe, having spent, you know, literally years with Jane Mayer who's one of the best investigative reporters in the business -- she now works for the New Yorker, but we spent years researching every nook and cranny of the story. And we found other women who described incidents of Clarence Thomas saying bizarre things to them, just of the kind that Anita Hill testified about. And we found patterns in his life that gave credence to what she came to Washington and told about. So we felt the weight of the evidence supported her.

  • 11:24:50

    REHMAnd what would you say about his wife's call to Anita Hill?

  • 11:24:59

    ABRAMSONRight. Actually the Times broke that story. And, you know, was an odd occurrence where Ginni Thomas, out of the blue after all of these years, called Anita Hill to say you should really look at yourself deeply and consider taking back the lies that you told. And, you know, Anita Hill was concerned enough by this bizarre telephone call that -- she teaches at Brandeis -- and she called the campus police.

  • 11:25:35

    ABRAMSONBut, you know, I think that at the point that -- and I don't like to conjecture because as an investigative reporter one always goes by the facts -- but the facts at that moment were -- the Times actually had a front page story that very morning about Mrs. Thomas and some of her lobbying and political activities. And that was the same morning she made the call so...

  • 11:26:03

    REHMSo do you see some connection?

  • 11:26:06

    ABRAMSONI don't know, possibly. I mean, the reporter in me is intrigued by that. I wish I had enough time to spend still reporting that I could get to the bottom of that.

  • 11:26:16

    REHMHow did you end up at the New York Times to begin with?

  • 11:26:21

    ABRAMSONI had been for many years, as I said, investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau. And I was their Deputy Washington Bureau Chief. And in 1997 I was attending a book party and I ran into Maureen Dowd the fabulous, brilliant columnist. And Maureen and I had actually sat across from each other at the Thomas Hill hearings. And, you know, we were not close friends but acquaintances.

  • 11:26:53

    ABRAMSONAnd Maureen came up to me at this book party and said, we're getting a new Washington bureau chief and do you know any good women we can hire. And I sort of gave her a look like, what am I, chopped liver?

  • 11:27:06

    REHMYeah, right.

  • 11:27:08

    ABRAMSONAnd she kind of squinched up her eyes and said, you would never leave the Wall Street Journal. And I said...

  • 11:27:13

    REHMWould you?

  • 11:27:14

    ABRAMSONWell, you know, the new bureau chief came calling and Joe Lelyveld who was then the executive editor made me a very attractive offer. And I'd grown up in a New York Times-loving household.

  • 11:27:29

    REHMWhere there were actually two newspapers.

  • 11:27:31

    ABRAMSONThere were for some years, two home subscriptions 'cause my mother was an expert puzzler. And she didn't like other people to be fussing with the newspaper. But, you know, I grew -- fell in love with reading and certainly reading newspapers growing up with the New York Times. So...

  • 11:27:54

    REHMJill, how did you get along with Howell Raines?

  • 11:27:58

    ABRAMSONYeah, that is -- Diane, was like ten years ago. He was the executive editor and became so right before 911. And, you know, I learned some valuable things from him. We had some conflicts but ten years is a long time. I don't like going back over that territory.

  • 11:28:20

    REHMI understand that. So now you have become the first female executive editor at the New York Times. Does the fact that you are the first female affect how you think you approach your work?

  • 11:28:42

    ABRAMSONWell, you know, it has to affect how I approach my work 'cause it affects who I am. And I'm immensely proud to be the first woman. And when Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. announced my appointment I talked to the newsroom and cited, you know, all of the women who battled in journalism and at the New York Times to make way so I could be a contender for this job. And then actually get the job.

  • 11:29:14

    ABRAMSONAnd, you know, that galaxy includes Nan Robertson, who wrote a book about women at the Times and in the profession called "The Girls in the Balcony." You know, I thank Maureen Dowd who has been the most intrepid friend and supporter of mine. Janet Robinson, our CEO. A lot of the top people on our business side who I work with a lot are women, very strong women. And I couldn't be prouder.

  • 11:29:51

    REHMDidn't Nan Robertson also write that extraordinary piece about toxic shock?

  • 11:29:57

    ABRAMSONOn toxic -- she sure did and she won a Pulitzer Prize for it.

  • 11:30:00

    REHMShe won a Pulitzer Prize for it.

  • 11:30:02

    ABRAMSONBut in terms of, you know, the historical aspect of being the first woman, I keep in my office a very large photograph that's framed of the Times newsroom in 1905. And there is one woman. She was the second woman hired to be a reporter. And I think because the men were being polite they gave her a seat sort of at the center of the desk that they're posing at. And she actually looks like the boss.

  • 11:30:33

    REHMI love it, I love it. Now, the question that I'm sure a lot of people are wondering is, is there any connection between the kind of training you and Scout had to do together and the lessons you might apply to your work at the Times?

  • 11:30:59

    ABRAMSONI think that there are life lessons in everything that one sometimes brings to work. And the quality that I don't like about myself as a journalist is I can sometimes be impatient. And in childrearing or caring for a puppy patience is just unbelievably important. If you don't have it and work on having more of it you're not going to help either your dog or your children. And at the times I found I've had to learn to listen more and talk less.

  • 11:31:38

    REHMListen more and talk less. And that is serving you well.

  • 11:31:45

    ABRAMSONI'm trying.

  • 11:31:48

    REHMJill Abramson. She's executive editor of the New York Times. Her new book is titled "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Greg in Orlando, Fla. Good morning to you.

  • 11:32:20

    GREGGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:32:21

    REHMHi there.

  • 11:32:22

    GREG(unintelligible) your show.

  • 11:32:23

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:32:24

    GREGI'm on a cell phone. I hope I stay alive here.

  • 11:32:29

    REHMI do too. I hope you're not driving.

  • 11:32:32

    GREGWell, unfortunately I am.

  • 11:32:34

    REHMOh, dear.

  • 11:32:35

    ABRAMSONUh, oh.

  • 11:32:36

    GREGMy question actually relates to safety. I was -- also was run over by a garbage truck as a pedestrian so my curiosity is greatly peaked. And my question is if Miss -- the editor had an -- did her accident contribute to her independent thinking as it relates to her will to live?

  • 11:33:13

    ABRAMSONThat's a very thoughtful question and I'm just not sure. I think my accident taught me a lot of things about myself...

  • 11:33:23

    REHMSuch as.

  • 11:33:24

    ABRAMSON...determination and patience because you don't recover quickly from something like that. And you learn -- you know, in any setback either personally or professionally, you learn what you're made of and you grow.

  • 11:33:44

    REHMTell me exactly how that accident occurred.

  • 11:33:49

    ABRAMSONIt was early one morning in May, 2007 and I was actually on my way to exercise before work near the Times building in Times Square. And the light changed and I started crossing 44th Street headed to the gym. And, you know, this truck came out of nowhere fast and ran over my right foot first. And for some reason I was dragged down into the gutter. And then the rear wheel of the truck went over the top of my left leg and did the most damage.

  • 11:34:29

    ABRAMSONAnd a policeman and a doctor at Bellevue Hospital where I was taken said to me that if the tire had been inches higher I would've been killed.

  • 11:34:42

    REHMWow. Did the truck stop?

  • 11:34:48

    ABRAMSONThe truck actually didn't stop, but, you know, it is a nice story about Manhattan in that tons of people who were crossing in the opposite direction stopped to help me when they saw what had happened. And several of them chased the truck and stopped it. And I don't know to this day whether the driver just didn't see me or what.

  • 11:35:14

    REHMSo you don't know if it was a deliberate case of hit-and-run.

  • 11:35:18

    ABRAMSONI don't.

  • 11:35:19

    REHMYeah. Did you ever meet the driver?

  • 11:35:23

    ABRAMSONI saw the driver once, but didn't meet him.

  • 11:35:27

    REHMYeah. How long did it take you to recover?

  • 11:35:31

    ABRAMSONWell, I was in Bellevue Hospital where, you know, they have one of the great trauma centers in the world. I was there for three weeks. And then for about three months I did intensive physical therapy every day. And I graduated from being in a wheelchair -- I was in a wheelchair when I returned to work at the Times -- to crutches, to a cane, to, you know, maybe six months out being able to walk still limping unassisted. And, you know, I'm incredibly lucky.

  • 11:36:10

    REHMYeah.

  • 11:36:10

    ABRAMSONThere are so many people who have awful accidents or head injuries, you know, who don't recover. So I feel I have everything in the world to be grateful for.

  • 11:36:21

    REHMDo you think it taught you anything about slowing down?

  • 11:36:28

    ABRAMSONMaybe slowing down. I've never been a rush, rush, rush person.

  • 11:36:32

    REHMYeah, right.

  • 11:36:33

    ABRAMSONAnd I'm not addicted to looking at my e-mail or text messages. But it definitely makes you stop and think that, you know, something could happen to you at any moment and you better make the most of the time you have on this earth for sure.

  • 11:36:53

    REHMFor sure. And I must say, in this changing media landscape where you are constantly barraged with e-mail, with Tweets, with Facebook, are you on Facebook personally?

  • 11:37:13

    ABRAMSONI'm not. I am on Twitter and I've mostly been reading, but I have tweeted. And my children, who are now in their 20s, have given me a very low grade on Twitter. They say I don't get it.

  • 11:37:29

    REHMJill Abramson. She's executive editor of the New York Times. Her new book, "The Puppy Diaries." We'll take just a short break and come back with your calls and comments.

  • 11:40:04

    REHMAnd if you've just joined us, Jill Abramson is with me. She was recently named the executive editor of The New York Times, often called the gray lady for its imminence in the publishing and news business. Do join us 800-433-8850. Yet with such an important position, Jill has just published a book. It's titled "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout." I'm going to go first to South Bend, Indiana because Chris has a question about his or her older yellow lab. Good morning, Chris.

  • 11:40:58

    CHRISGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:40:59

    REHMIt's a female. Thank you. Go right ahead.

  • 11:41:03

    CHRISYes. Not so much a question, just I wanted to share that I have an older yellow lab that we purchased with our children going into a second marriage as, you know, just really the joining of a family and that was nine years ago. And I have -- we just gone through a divorce and this sweet dog has been my heart through the whole process. You know, at one point because, forgive me.

  • 11:41:43

    REHMNo. I totally understand. Go right ahead.

  • 11:41:47

    CHRISAt one -- thank you. At one point I was so depressed and walking the house, you know, miserable and scared for the future. And my children are now in college at Indiana University, so it was Jay and I rattling around the house. And I noticed that he was just acting strange. He was very mokey and, you know, laboring going upstairs to sleep at the foot of my bed and so on. And I became alarmed. He wasn't eating. I took him to the 24-hour, you know, emergency dog care late on a Sunday. And they said, well, he's depressed. You know, he's going through a divorce with you and he is reflecting your behavior it appears, you know.

  • 11:42:39

    REHMInteresting.

  • 11:42:40

    CHRISIsn't that amazing?

  • 11:42:41

    REHMAnd that's what happens.

  • 11:42:43

    ABRAMSONIt does. And they can be the most sympathetic kind of companion and friend when you're going through troubles. I actually -- your listeners will think I'm a terrible klutz and accident prone, but in "The Puppy Diaries" I talk about after I was recovered. I was at Yellowstone National Park and I was doing a climb up a very steep ridge, probably had no business doing that because my sense of balance isn't perfect. But on the way down, I did something common. I slipped on scree and lost my footing and broke my arm. And I was worried when I got home that, you know, Scout who was 80 pounds and, you know, bundle of energy that she, you know, would bump into me or jump on me and hurt me. But, you know, she sensed right away that something was wrong.

  • 11:43:41

    REHMReally.

  • 11:43:41

    ABRAMSONAnd she just, like, spent days curled up at my feet just like as gentle as can be and, you know, gave off an aura that was just so comforting and relaxing.

  • 11:43:54

    REHMWell, and that's why they become such effective therapy animals...

  • 11:43:59

    ABRAMSONThat's for sure.

  • 11:44:00

    REHM...because they do sense and react very, very favorably. Tell me about The New York Times and how it's changing. It was a recent announcement about the elimination of some positions at The Times.

  • 11:44:24

    ABRAMSONYeah, very few actually were gonna do some voluntary buyouts. Over the past years we've had to somewhat reduce our news room staff, but actually right now it's as large as it was ten years ago. We still have domestic news bureaus and national correspondents when other so-called national newspapers have really retreated from the major cities in the U.S. And we're a global news gathering organization. We have more foreign bureaus than we've ever had.

  • 11:45:06

    ABRAMSONWe just hired some new correspondents for Afghanistan and Pakistan. But this is a period for the news media broadly of transition where, you know, we're moving to a world where, you know, more people are reading us on digital platforms and in print form. And we produce the best news report in the world. And, you know, any way someone wants to read it, I'm happy. So -- but that means you need somewhat to do less of some things and more of new things and, you know, you can't just keep growing. It's a tough economy as we all know.

  • 11:45:49

    REHMAnd of course you had Vivian Schiller who became ultimately the CEO of NPR who moved from The Times where it was she who I gather was quite instrumental in developing the platforms.

  • 11:46:07

    ABRAMSONShe was. I feel she was very much a visionary about the digital world and, you know, helped me our website along with colleagues both on the business side and news side of The Times like a wonder.

  • 11:46:21

    REHMYou must have been very saddened to have seen what ultimately evolved here.

  • 11:46:28

    ABRAMSONOf course. And I've been in touch with Vivian and, you know, she's landed on her feet. But it was a sad thing.

  • 11:46:35

    REHMAbsolutely. To Martha in Lexington, Mass. Good morning to you. Martha.

  • 11:46:44

    MARTHAGood morning.

  • 11:46:45

    REHMYes.

  • 11:46:46

    MARTHAYes, hi.

  • 11:46:47

    REHMGo right ahead, please.

  • 11:46:49

    MARTHAWell, I'm so fascinated by this and am very tempted to talk about Scout, but my question is really about the Anita Hill era. And I'm wondering if you could comment on the role of the individual as a catalyst for something versus a larger kind of societal trend. I wonder if -- I mean, what Anita Hill did was so courageous and an individual act of courage, but at the same time, the times were such that people listened to her and that she felt that it was okay to do that. And I'm wondering about how the press seizes or maybe not seizes, but acknowledges the contributions of an individual versus the individual being a representative of a larger movement.

  • 11:47:39

    ABRAMSONWell, you know, I think that Anita Hill, you used the word catalyst, and I think that's a very, very good word. She was. She saw herself of course as merely a citizen doing her duty, that she came to Washington, the Judiciary Committee asked her to come and she testified. And I'm not sure in real-time she realized the impact of her testimony and that many women across the world understood what sexual harassment was. But it seemed a new issue to many other people.

  • 11:48:13

    ABRAMSONBut I think in terms of your question about the media, that it isn't always a happy experience when someone who isn't a well-known person steps forward in a public way, that they become the focus of attention. And the case of Anita Hill, there was a very sophisticated opposition campaign directed at undermining her. And I think going through that was very bruising.

  • 11:48:43

    REHMHere's an email from Clifford who says, "I'm wondering what Mrs. Abramson thinks about the current state of editing. With the great proliferation of news outlets, it seems that editing is becoming a lost art."

  • 11:49:03

    ABRAMSONYeah, I don't see that at The Times. And I worked at The Wall Street Journal before The Times which, you know, had very professional, strict editing, very high standards as does The Times. But, you know, I think authority heavily edited journalism is wonderful. It's not the only form. And at The Times we've learned to take advantage of blogging, which is a little bit more immediate. Our blogs are edited by the way. And our comments on our side are usually moderated. So it's not the kind of free for all you see elsewhere. And we always want the substance of our news report to be as intelligent as our audience is.

  • 11:49:53

    REHMJill Abramson, she's executive editor of The New York Times and the author of a new book. It's titled "The Puppy Diaries." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And one question that has been raised a great deal about The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, many of the news outlets, and that is the liberal...

  • 11:50:29

    ABRAMSONMm-hmm.

  • 11:50:29

    REHM...so-called liberal stance. How do you see it?

  • 11:50:34

    ABRAMSONYou know, I think that the people who see The Times as like a liberal rag are wrong and that they sometimes don't understand the separation between our opinion side, which produces our editorials and our op-eds, and the news report. They're two different things and there's separation between the two. And when I worked at The Wall Street Journal, it was known as a conservative newspaper, again, because of the editorial page. But, you know, the news gathering side played as it was.

  • 11:51:13

    REHMAnd you continued to feel that that's what happened at The Times and at The Wall Street Journal?

  • 11:51:21

    ABRAMSONI do. I think, you know, the news reporters go into their stories with an open mind. And something I stress to our reporters at The Times is even when you think you know the story, go in ready to be surprised or illuminated by what somebody tells you.

  • 11:51:42

    REHMHere's an email from Caroline in Washington, D.C. Do you think that having a woman lead a news organization makes a difference? If so, how? Isn't that difference worth recognizing?

  • 11:52:02

    ABRAMSONI think it is worth recognizing and I think all -- it's hard for me to talk about women broadly because, you know, I walk in my own skin. But, you know, I think some of the women editors I've worked with are very collaborative. They can be strong leaders, but they like bringing in other people and being second guessed and challenged. And I think I am like that. And that's an important quality if you're the top editor of an important news organization like The Times.

  • 11:52:41

    REHMSo go through your ordinary day for me.

  • 11:52:47

    ABRAMSONMy ordinary day begins early in the morning.

  • 11:52:51

    REHMWhat time?

  • 11:52:52

    ABRAMSON6:00. And I have to admit the first thing I reach for is my iPad because I usually been reading it before I go to sleep too. I mean, I mainly read all of the front page stories in The Times and many of the other important stories the night before, because we now publish stories when they're ready. And if it's...

  • 11:53:16

    REHMExactly.

  • 11:53:16

    ABRAMSON...on the website first, that's great.

  • 11:53:18

    REHMRight.

  • 11:53:19

    ABRAMSONSo, you know, I look at top stories to see, you know, have I missed anything, has news developed overnight, you know, and then I'm just reading, reading, reading, reading. I try and send off some complimentary emails 'cause I think it's important when you really love something to let the journalist who's created the work know that. And then I get to work. I get to The Times, which is still near Times Square, but in a new building which is quite beautiful.

  • 11:53:51

    REHMAbout what time?

  • 11:53:53

    ABRAMSONI get there usually, you know, 9:00-ish.

  • 11:53:55

    REHMMm-hmm.

  • 11:53:56

    ABRAMSONAnd by then I will have, you know, consumed every bit of The Times, this news report. I read The Wall Street Journal. I, you know, read the FT I think is a very good paper.

  • 11:54:10

    REHMI totally agree.

  • 11:54:11

    ABRAMSONMy guilty pleasure from the days that I was just growing up in Manhattan on my subway ride is The New York Post. I even look at my horoscope in that.

  • 11:54:23

    REHMOh, great. As do I each and every day.

  • 11:54:27

    ABRAMSONSo, you know, just the early morning is a read-a-thon and then our first news meeting is at 10:00. So from 9:00 to 10:00 I'm kind of walking the floor and talking to different reporters and editors to try to get...

  • 11:54:40

    REHMAbout what they're working on.

  • 11:54:41

    ABRAMSONYeah, what's up and...

  • 11:54:42

    REHMYeah.

  • 11:54:42

    ABRAMSON...you know, hoping for big news. And we then go into a 10:00 a.m. meeting which is very much about the home page and what stories will be ready 'cause we want, you know, our great signature journalism to be, you know, constantly refreshed. And we now have the digital subscription plans, so our heaviest users are being asked to pay for our journalism, though we still remain part of the free web for many, many people.

  • 11:55:16

    REHMAre you involved with lunches each day?

  • 11:55:20

    ABRAMSONI try to. Several times a week I have lunches with clusters of reporters or...

  • 11:55:26

    REHMI see.

  • 11:55:27

    ABRAMSON...web producers.

  • 11:55:28

    REHMGood.

  • 11:55:28

    ABRAMSONI just had a great lunch. We do sandwiches in my office with some reporters in our sports department. And with the World Series coming up and football season starting and, you know, the terrible racetrack accident...

  • 11:55:44

    REHMOh, wasn't that awful.

  • 11:55:44

    ABRAMSON...there was plenty, plenty to talk about.

  • 11:55:46

    REHMI should say. What time do you get home in the evening?

  • 11:55:50

    ABRAMSONYou know, home, I sometimes get home late 'cause often there's something at night that I want to do that's work related.

  • 11:55:58

    REHMAnd is...

  • 11:55:58

    ABRAMSONI'm a real culture vulture, so...

  • 11:56:00

    REHM...is Henry with you?

  • 11:56:02

    ABRAMSONHenry splits his week between our house in Connecticut and New York. And he stays busy. But, you know, I try to get home and spend time with him during the week. And the weekend is really quiet and a sanctuary...

  • 11:56:16

    REHMLovely.

  • 11:56:16

    ABRAMSON...and as Henry and Scout and I taking the best walks imaginable.

  • 11:56:23

    REHMAnd always Scout. How old is Scout now?

  • 11:56:27

    ABRAMSONShe's two and a half now.

  • 11:56:29

    REHMAnd a beauty.

  • 11:56:31

    ABRAMSONShe is a beauty and a delight.

  • 11:56:33

    REHMJill Abramson, she's executive editor of The New York Times. She's also a dog lover as I am and the author of a new book "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout." Thank you for being here.

  • 11:56:55

    ABRAMSONIt's been a joy, Diane.

  • 11:56:57

    REHMThank you. Good to see you again. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:02

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is drshow@wamu.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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