In a lengthy, well-produced feature on The New York Times in this week's New Republic, the weekly magazine looks at the future of the daily newspaper — or, as the sub-headline calls it, "the Embattled, Essential New York Times." In other words, this wasn't a hit piece. Nor need it be. For all the gossip about what goes on at The Times, The New Republic makes a compelling case that the success of The Times is essential to the very enterprise of American journalism.
The centerpiece of the feature is an interview with Times executive editor Jill Abramson, conducted by Michael Kinsley, a former New Republic editor. Despite the obvious prejudice of the overall package towards The Times, Kinsley doesn't lob too many softballs, starting the interview by prodding Abramson about what he says is the paper's "sort of Upper-West-Side sensibility" — which he says has only been exacerbated during her tenure.
Top NYT editor: Our news coverage doesn't have a liberal bias. It has a 'cosmopolitan outlook.' http://t.co/LN4id0e2k0— Byron York (@ByronYork) August 20, 2013
Abramson — speaking in what she calls her "320 Central Park West accent" — deflects that question, but admits that the Politico piece "was hurtful and seemed mean-spirited." As the former Washington bureau chief for The Times, she admits reading Politico editor Mike Allen's famed morning emails, though she says his "'scooplets'...are interesting in the moment but somewhat evanescent in their importance." As for The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, Abramson says she is "not a regular reader of either."
Unsurprisingly, she defends Times owner Arthur Sulzberger, saying "he has not gotten the amount of credit he deserves for continuing to fight for the highest-quality journalism in a very difficult environment." She says she has not met new Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, though she thinks his takeover is "possibly inspiring," whatever that means.
Read the TNR Jill Abramson interview. Then watched like 5 videos of her. What accent are y'all hearing? http://t.co/0QkiqAiHj3— Emily Stephenson (@ewstephe) August 20, 2013
And though she says she reads the paper's digital editions, Abramson believes that "reading the print paper is still a richer experience." Asked by Kinsley if there will still be a printed Times in five years, Abramson answers, "I think it will still be available." The slightly hedged answer may give some traditionalists discomfort, but at least she's clear-eyed about the future of journalism.
Kinsley asks about Politico, noting it changed landscape in Washington. Jill: "So I read, in Mark Leibovich’s book." http://t.co/Wgm00x5G7v— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) August 20, 2013
Speaking of the future, The New Republic features a list of "immodest proposals" for how the paper of record can sustain itself in the 21st century. "The proposals contained in this package aren’t meant to nitpick," Kinsley concludes. "They are made in a spirit of solidarity, because, at this moment of looming danger, it has become something close to a patriotic obligation to subscribe to the paper. God save the Gray Lady."
Photo by John Niedermeyer via Flickr