Make us your home page
Instagram

While in Tampa, former New York Times editor Jill Abramson talks media and politics

Jill Abramson is probably as famous for being hired as the first female executive editor of the New York Times as she is for being fired from the job.

But Abramson, who is, among other things, an author and a lecturer teaching nonfiction narrative writing at Harvard University, has used her high-profile dismissal from the newspaper in 2014 as an opportunity to talk about the news industry and gender inequality in the corporate world.

Abramson joined the New York Times in 1997, where she was the first woman to serve as Washington bureau chief and later, managing editor. She previously worked as an investigative reporter and deputy bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal.

Abramson was among a star-studded lineup of speakers at the first Women's Conference of Florida, which drew more than 800 attendees from around the state to the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina on Friday.

She spoke with the Tampa Bay Times before her fireside chat moderated by Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and former journalist with the Times.

After your departure from the New York Times, you said you were working on a new journalism startup that got media attention when you said it would pay $100,000 advances to journalists. How's that going?

That is a little stalled at the moment. I worry at this point I don't have the time to do it. It was going to be the focus of my work, but now I have a full load with teaching at Harvard, which I love doing. I'm teaching two courses each semester next year. I have signed up to write a book about the tumult in our profession and where it's heading. I write a political column for the Guardian and I'm a new grandma. My daughter is a surgeon married to a surgeon and they live in Boston. During the school year I live with them to be an extra pair of hands and heart. So I'm pretty booked.

The Tampa Bay Times recently bought its competitor, the Tampa Tribune. We're not the first region to go from two daily papers to one. What do you think is the future for local news?

Regional newspapers have been hurt worst of all. And in Florida, there are several good newspapers. Count me as very worried about the narrowing of local and regional coverage. The duty of our profession is to hold the powerful accountable. Journalism can be very difficult. It takes time, it's expensive. There's no one answer.

But there are markets that are doing worse. For some time, cities like Detroit and New Orleans shrunk to one paper and weren't even publishing every day. One option is to follow the Texas Tribune, which is an organization I admire, which dealt with the atrophy of coverage on the state legislature by dedicating themselves completely to the coverage of politics and policy in Texas. They're a nonprofit. Florida is full of wealthy people, I would like to think they would decide to invest and support similar efforts here. I wouldn't suggest starting a newspaper now but maybe a robust digital news organization that's dedicated to state and local government, similar to what you already do with PolitiFact.

What are the biggest challenges facing the news industry today?

There are a lot of great things trying to replace the loss of investigative reporting power, like ProPublica and the Marshall Project, which are nonprofits. They're doing important work and making sure the public understands that the work is in the public's interest in one way or another. But this isn't the same world as when I entered journalism. It was such a small circle then but now it's so splintered with blogs and other online media. With Facebook and Twitter, everyone can be a journalist. It's hard for there to collective action to improve the image of the media now. It's too big and has too many parts.

Also, the public has such low esteem for the news media right now. They don't see us reporting accurately or fairly and that has to be turned around somehow. But like Thomas Jefferson said, "were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

What do you see as the future of news media?

I think it's very interesting to watch new digital media companies like Buzzfeed and Vice move into the serious news space. They're doing high-quality work. Whether they could step in tomorrow and replace older legacy media like the New York Times or the Washington Post, which are traditionally known for breaking big stories, I don't know, but they want to do good work.

In your political column for the Guardian, you've written in support of Hillary Clinton. What do you think about the election this year?

There's still a double standard applied to women in power. They're judged much more on personal terms, which is the way Hillary has been covered over the years. The higher a woman climbs, her likability comes down, but for men, that doesn't happen. The same qualities to women are being too ambitious or shrill are seen in men as leaderly. And as long as that's the world, it's not equal. I do think it's great that we might have a woman president, and not just to have a woman, but Hillary Clinton, who is the most prepared nominee in either party. I think it's now or never.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

While in Tampa, former New York Times editor Jill Abramson talks media and politics 05/22/16 [Last modified: Sunday, May 22, 2016 6:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Terrier Tri brings unique triathlon training to South Tampa

    Business

    Over a decade ago, Robert Pennino traded late nights in the music studio for early mornings in the Terrier Tri cycle studio.

    Terrier Tri, a cycling studio in South Tampa celebrates a grand opening on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tess Hipp.
  2. New bistro hopes to serve as 'adult Chuck E. Cheese'

    Business

    YBOR CITY — Inside Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy, a new restaurant opening in Ybor City, customers will find a mix of family recipes, games and secrecy.

    Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy readies to open in Ybor City. Photo courtesy of Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy.
  3. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Senate GOP leaders face tough job in selling health-care bill to their members

    Health

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday moved swiftly to begin selling their health-care measure to substantially rewrite the Affordable Care Act to their wary members as they seek to garner enough support to pass the bill in an expected vote next week.

    U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill's chief author, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said "Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief." [AP]
  5. Rick Scott eyes Patronis as CFO, but it may not help him in Panhandle

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's expected pick of Jimmy Patronis as the state's next Chief Financial Officer would be a solid addition to the Republican Party ticket but may not do much to smooth some rough waters developing in the Panhandle over schools, area Republicans said this week.

    Former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, left, is being considered by Gov. Rick Scott for the state's chief financial officer. Patronis, seen with Scott in 2011, is considered one of the governor's chief loyalists.