Where Are All the Female Editors?
Ex- New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson is back with a new book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,” that chronicles how The Times, The Washington Post, VICE and Buzzfeed navigated the fast-changing news business over the last decade.

We devoured the excerpt in New York magazine in which Abramson writes about her troubled relationship with then-publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. It all started well enough when he offered her the job during a lunch at Le Bernardin – jeez, The Times must have been doing ok that quarter – but dissolved quickly. Abramson eventually got a performance review that was so negative she summarized it this way: “People think you’re a bitch.” She was fired not long afterwards.

That got us thinking about the legacy of women editors at New York’s newspapers.

At first blush, it’s an impressive one: The Times, The Daily News and The Post have all had women at the helm. That’s especially notable when you consider that many other major titles around the country, like The Wall Street Journal , The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times , have never had a female editor. But then the legacy clouds.

All three women who held the top jobs – Abramson, Xana Antunes at The Post and Debby Krenek at The Daily News – were pushed out after very short tenures, all roughly the same as Abramson’s two years. Their predecessors and successors were all men, most of whom stayed at their gigs far longer.

Abramson, by her own admission, has an intense personality, got her “ethical hackles” up easily and didn’t always say what her bosses wanted to hear. Krenek and Antunes, who got and lost their jobs in the ’90s and early aughts, were subjected to the whims of two mercurial owners, Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch, so it’s hard to divine a unifying theme in their short tenures.

They’ve all gone on to new chapters: Abramson writes for the Guardian , teaches at Harvard and has this big book; Krenek is the publisher of Newsday ; and Antunes is the editor in chief of Quartz .

In this era of long-overdue victories by women politicians at the state and federal levels, it would be nice to see the trend mirrored at the publications that cover them. But editors come and go, and it takes more than one person to make a difference at a large institution like The Times . Audrey Cooper, editor of The San Francisco Chronicle and a friend to Communications Breakdown , tells us that having a woman in the top spot isn’t an automatic game-changer.

“It’s not too uncommon that I point out something that I’m more sensitive or attuned to than my male peers,” she says. “And without other women in the room, I think it would be very easy to imagine a world in which I might suppress that voice, even if I am the boss.”

That fact wasn’t lost on Abramson. “There were ridiculously few women in the most senior editing jobs,” she writes. “By the end of my first year, also for the first time in history, the masthead was half-female.”

That wasn’t enough to save her job, but it was an accomplishment she looks back upon with pride.
  ...and one more thing
Also in the New York excerpt, Abramson recounts the final series of events that led to her dismissal. In a nutshell, she wanted to bring in a new digital managing editor, Janine Gibson of The Guardian , and didn’t tell then-managing editor Dean Baquet that she had already made the decision as he interviewed candidates. Abramson says the strategy wasn't her idea.

In the end, Baquet found out and basically said, it’s her or me. And the rest is history.

Except for one thing: Janine Gibson didn’t join The Times . She returned to England and became Buzzfeed’s top editor there in 2015.

Until this week, when she left the company amid a brutal round of layoffs.


Mark Zuckerberg: Still Singing an Old Song
For a corporate public relations team, placing an op-ed can be a hugely satisfying tactic; the boss gets to speak directly to the public and deliver his message without a filter. The challenge is to create a sympathetic voice around all those talking points.

“Recently I’ve heard many questions about our business model, so I want to explain the principles of how we operate,” began an op-ed by Facebook’s embattled founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Wall Street Journal this week.

If he was trying to put a kinder face to his company, or illuminate issues that the Facebook-hating media keeps getting wrong, talking to readers as if they were six year-olds wasn’t necessarily the right approach.

 “This model can feel opaque, and we’re all distrustful of systems we don’t understand,” he explained. “Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don’t do.”

The op-ed, seemingly born of a hundred focus groups, only turned interesting near the very end. It wasn’t long ago that Facebook was widely romanticized as a miracle of youthful American ingenuity. These days the company is looking downright evil. It was thus surprisingly poignant when the writer tried to evoke that old feeling.
 
“If you believe in a world where everyone gets an opportunity to use their voice and an equal chance to be heard, where anyone can start a business from scratch, then it’s important to build technology that serves everyone,” he wrote. “That’s the world we’re building for every day, and our business model makes it possible.

Language like that used to flow all the time during the height of the technology boom, but reached its expiration date a while ago. Now we’ll just take some straight talk, if that’s okay.
The Mother of All Mistakes
Here’s a correction to end corrections , an apology so complete and self-eviscerating – was every fact in the story wrong? – that at first we thought we might be reading The Onion . But no.

On January 19th, The Telegraph in England ran a magazine story headlined “The Mystery of Melania” that recounted the life and times of our First Lady. Among other details, it reported that she wept the night her husband was elected (which we vaguely thought we’d heard before). It’s gone from the web now.

Just a week later, the paper announced that the story “contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published” and concluded, “We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.”

Errors they cited included describing Melania’s father as a “fearsome presence” who dominated the family; saying she quit school because she was failing; that her parents got apartments in Trump buildings; that her modeling career was going nowhere before she met Trump, and so forth and so on. And then the Observer’s final mea culpa: “As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs. Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs.”

    Wow – one week from publication to complete and utter surrender. Usually that takes months of negotiations.

But here’s something interesting we noticed: the story was written by American author Nina Burleigh and was an excerpt from her book, “Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women.” It was published in October, 2018.

Despite the evisceration of The Telegraph story, Burleigh’s book sits happily at Amazon, not attacked, with a modest 11 reviews. We looked inside -- in Amazon parlance -- and found, for example, that she does indeed say Melania cried on election night on page 280 – but attributes that fact to Michael Wolf’s book, “Fire and Fury.” (See? We had heard it before).

What happened here? We’re not sure – but it sounds like Telegraph editors juiced up the excerpt and took it further than the book. These types of excerpt deals in England can be lucrative for authors, but writers beware.
Here and There
Comings and goings in journalism and communications

Ken Lovett leaves his long-held perch as Daily News Albany bureau chief (for where we’re not sure – we thought for a while that maybe he was going to The City). Big loss for the News Jared Hohlt leaves New York magazine, where he’d been in charge of print, after David Haskell is named editor-in-chief… Abbey Collins , Gov ernor Cuomo’s press secretary during last year’s campaign, has joined Kivvit as a direct or… Phil Lentz joins Cuomo's staff as his director of speechwriting Maxwell Young joins the Metropolitan Transit Authority as external affairs officer.
Quotable
“If rock ’n’ roll can save your life, is there a flip side? Can it be destroyed by music?” Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis, who spent 20 years pursuing stories about R & B star R. Kelly and accusations he abused girls and young women.
Have a career announcement for Here and There? A Quotable quote?
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