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Jewesses with Attitude

Jill Abramson ascends to top spot at the New York Times

The New York Times announced a change last week in its managerial lineup when current executive editor Bill Keller said he would retire and managing editor Jill Abramson would take his placep in the paper's to spot. Abramson, a lifelong New Yorker with a tattoo of a subway token to prove it, has said that her religion growing up was, in fact, The New York Times: "In my house growing up, if the Times said it, it was the absolute truth," she's been quoted as saying. But rumor has it that Abramson's other religion is Judaism - and though she will certainly not be the Times' first Jewish editor, she will be its first female editor, making her promotion a celebratory event for proud Jewesses everywhere.

It's shocking but unfortunately not too difficult to comprehend that in the Times' 160-year history, no woman was ever held the top spot Abramson now assumes. Staffing statistics indicate that in 2004, female journalists held only 37% of positions, usually lower-level reporting jobs, and made up about 32% of bylines, typically relegated to inside and back pages. On top of that, the oft-criticized old boys' club that is The New York Times has, in recent months, suffered from repeated and virulent accusations of victim-blaming in its reporting on rape cases, leaving feminists to wonder if they can trust the world's most influential newspaper to report fairly and sensitively on issues of critical social importance.

It gives feminists hope, then, that Abramson, who has spent the last few years building up the Times' online presence by proverbial leaps and bounds, has long reported on womens' struggle for equality in the professional world. She counts Maureen Dowd and Anna Quindlen among those women who have made it possible for her to achieve the success she has thus far reached, and though she has noted her own past hesitancy to step up to the plate in the largely male-dominated world of news reporting, she is clear about where she stands now: "Those days are over."

The hope, of course, is that in her new role as executive editor, Abramson will breathe new life into the Times. In her role as managing editor, she's already put the paper's online presence on par and in competition with internet news giant the Huffington Post, and it's reassuring to see the nation's most well-known newspaper adopt a technology-friendly editor to its helm. But beyond that, Abramson's appointment provides the opportunity for the Times to reconsider its recent coverage of sensitive topics such as rape, reevaluating the way it portrays victims and the accused alike - and on a broader level, examining how it approaches coverage of "women's issues," in general, both in reporting and in the newsroom.

National news outlets are already calling Abramson one of the most powerful women in the world - and the most powerful Jewish woman in the world. Will that power translate into gender-related fairness in reporting, hiring, and the like? As the new executive editor of the so-called Grey Lady, Abramson faces a glass ceiling all her own, and the opportunities to shatter it are innumerable. We'd like to hand her a hammer and see what happens next.

How to cite this page

Bigam, Kate. "Jill Abramson ascends to top spot at the New York Times." 6 June 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 3, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/Jill-Abramson-ascends-to-top-spot-at-NYTimes>.

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