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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

New York Times appoints first female executive editor



The New York Times' shuffling of its top editorial positions has been hailed as a "big victory" for women in U.S. journalism. After eight years as executive editor, Bill Keller is stepping down to return to reporting and will be replaced by Jill Abramson, who will become the NY Times' first female executive editor.

"Symbolically, it’s a big victory in the face of a big void," said Jill Geisler of the sudden announcement June 2 that Abramson would take over for Keller as executive editor of The Times on Sept. 6. Writing for Poynter.org, Giesler said many women in journalism will likely see Abramson's appointment "as a victory, both real and symbolic. In real terms, her promotion to executive editor makes history; she’s the first woman to run the paper."

The Guardian's correspondent in New York, Ed Pilkington, noted that The Times is a world leader in journalism but behind the times when it comes to gender equality. "Now the paradoxically nicknamed Gray Lady has finally redressed the balance with the appointment of its first female editor," he said.

"I think it's significant," Abramson said on the PBS' NewsHour of her appointment as the first female executive editor in 160 years at The Times. She told her own newspaper that as a native New Yorker who grew up reading The Times, her new job was “the honor of my life” and like “ascending to Valhalla."

The Times also announced that its Washington Bureau chief Dean Baquet will become the managing editor for news while Keller will return to writing full time. Baquet is a former editor of the Los Angeles Times who was fired in 2006 for refusing to slash his editorial staff.

Keller caused a minor digital dust up earlier this year in his column for The New York Times Magazine when he questioned whether social media like Twitter and Facebook were "displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg’s device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet — complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy — are things that matter." In his column, Keller recounted how he tweeted #TwitterMakesYouStupid as a "masochistic experiment" after which he concluded: "Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid."

Teemu Henriksson subsequently reported that there were many divergent views in The Times' newsroom regarding the utility of Twitter and of Keller's opinion of social media, while Jeff Sonderman at Poynter.org pointed out the irony of journalists learning about Abramson's promotion on Twitter while Times' staffers and readers turned to the 140-character feed to share their reactions.

Veteran media analyst Ken Auletta, in a blog for the New Yorker, said Abramson, a former investigative reporter, was more than qualified to lead The New York Times. "To separate the Times from the commodified news that floods the Internet, storytelling and painstaking digging for stories that appear nowhere else will be essential. They will be mainstays of the Times under its new editor."



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