Jill Abramson reveals few details about startup venture

b_kirtzBy Bill Kirtz

Jill Abramson, fired (her words) last summer as New York Times executive editor, will join with Steven Brill on a startup to “give great journalists money they can live on.”

In a Boston University question-and-answer session Monday evening, she provided few details but said she and Brill — who won the National Magazine Award last year for his Time magazine cover story on medical costs — will write one story a year for the site. She said they’ve been pitching potential investors on the project.

Abramson was joined on stage by New York Times media columnist David Carr, a visiting professor at BU, who served up a steady stream of questions to his former boss.

In other remarks, Abramson praised former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee as “the most consequential editor of my lifetime”  and called The New York Review of Books a “perfect publication.”

Abramson, now teaching a once-a-week class at Harvard on narrative journalism, condemned “false equivalence” — reporting “on the one hand/on the other hand” as if each side is equally credible.”

After weighing and sifting all the facts, she said, journalists have the right to determine which side is right. As an example, she cited “Strange Justice,” the 1994 book she wrote with her then Wall Street Journal colleague Jane Mayer. They concluded that Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Clarence Thomas had lied about significant incidents in his past.

“What is the press but calling power people and institutions to account?” she asked.

Bill Kirtz is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University.

One thought on “Jill Abramson reveals few details about startup venture

  1. Andy Koppel

    It seems awfully early for Jill Abramson to be indulging in revisionist history. However, her comments about false equivalence ring hollow, since The Times has been moving ever so slowly toward correcting this approach. In addition, citing a book (her own, at that!) as an example of the correct way to handle journalistic controversy seems disingenuous. If anything, I would compare a book to a long investigative piece, not to a news story. That said, she is very fortunate to be paired with Steven Brill, a brilliant, tough journalist (and more). I do not wish her ill, but it is tiresome to see how people like Howell Raines, Judith Miller, and she have spun their post-Times lives.

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