Arthur Sulzberger Jr.: ‘The Question is, Am I Doing a Bad Job of Picking Leaders for the New York Times?’
The statement in the headline was volunteered Sunday by Sulzberger during his first post-Ambramson interview with Vanity Fair‘s Sarah Ellison. When she asked him what the terminations of Jill Abramson in 2014, president/CEO Janet Robinson in 2011 and executive editor Howell Raines in 2004 signify, the New York Times publisher chose to read between her interview lines. He goes on to answer his own question with, “I don’t think so.”
This is the second time Ellison has interviewed Sulzberger for the magazine; the first was for the 2010 cover story “Two Men and a Newsstand.” She reminds off the top that the framed Winston Churchill quote in Sulzberger’s office is incorrect and later, ponders a strange metaphor from the 62-year-old publisher about not wanting to wait to cut off the other arm after the first arm has been chopped.
Ellison covered a lot of solid ground during Sunday’s interview with a series of well thought-out questions. Sulzberger’s answer to this one suggests Abramson ultimately may have been undone by changing Times:
When I pointed out that other executive editors of the Times had possessed the very traits that some have attributed to Abramson —that she could be aloof or autocratic — he countered that times had changed. Sure, he said, Abe Rosenthal, who edited the Times through the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, was famously difficult. Rosenthal could also focus simply on gathering and publishing the news.
But an editor today, Sulzberger said, has to have a different set of skills. Today’s editor has to have stellar journalistic skills “as well as managerial skills to be figuring out how to get the data to help us deliver news in a digital age.”
The blustery hallmarks of the Rosenthal era, insists Sulzberger, are no longer feasible. Full interview here.
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