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Friday, June 3, 2011

NYT appoints first female editor

Ruth Fremson photo

Gender equality addressed at last. Jill Abramson takes over from Bill Keller as editor.

Ed Pilkington reports from New York that the paradoxically nicknamed Gray Lady has finally appointed its first female editor.
Jill Abramson will inherit the post of executive editor of the paper on 6 September, taking the helm of one of the world's most influential and widely read newspapers, at a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

A whole bevy of women's magazine editors has hailed this as a triumph for women. 

Maybe so, but I've become sadly accustomed to seeing women shoulder the responsibility in difficult business situations -- and executive editor of the NYT ranks up there among the hardest jobs around.

Keller, who is stepping down after eight years, found the job fraught with difficulties. No sooner had he taken over the office  in 2003, than scandal broke -- the Jayson Blair affair, in which a reporter was found to have been fabricating stories, resorting to plagiarism when imagination failed. The fact that Blair (who is now a "life coach" in Virginia) is Black made the problem even harder, posing questions about hiring practices and affirmative action at the newspaper.

And then there was the unhappiness of the Bush administration with the NYT's reporting of torture...

And then came WikiLeaks...

And digital publishing.

Abramson immediately faces the challenges posed by the digital age.  Who knows what else is in the offing?

What must haunt her now is that if she fails, she will be failing not just as an executive, but as a woman, too. That a woman has been appointed might be hailed now as a huge step forward, but what if she is perceived as letting womanhood down?  Being woman in what had been an exclusively man's job is not just a challenge, but also an added burden.

The best of good luck to her, I say.

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