Jill Abramson on paywalls, Howell Raines and 9/11

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was Alec Baldwin’s guest on his “Here’s the Thing” radio show. A few things she told him:

* “I grew up in a family that had two print home deliveries subscriptions to The Times because my mom didn’t like anyone touching the section that had the puzzle in that.”

* “I really believe if you do enough digging and enough reporting you can find the truth in most things.”

Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson

* How she left the WSJ and joined the Times: “[Maureen Dowd] came up to me at [the late Michael Kelly's] book party and she said, ‘Do you know of any good women we can hire?’ And so I looked at her with, it was kind, “What am I, chopped liver” look. And she said, ‘You would never leave The Journal’ and I said, ‘Oh, wouldn’t I?’

* “On 9/11 we did so many stories that day out of Washington. It’s more stories than we’ve ever had and the story list from that day still hangs outside of the bureau chief’s office and I didn’t get home until, I don’t know, 3:00 in the morning or so and drove right past the burning Pentagon and my whole way home there were flags already up on all the streets and then I got home to our house and even my husband, who isn’t such an overt patriot, had hung our absurdly large 4th of July flag. And at that point I just sat in my car and kind of absorbed like, ‘Woo,’ it was changed.”

* What percentage of the people working with you now are men and how many are women? “Women are 37 percent.”

* “Everyone was saying that our paid [digital] subscription plan was a rash move and that news wants to be free and it would never work and it has created a very significant revenue stream for us. So it was a very smart decision of Arthur’s to go that way.”

* What’s the first thing most people read in The Times they tell you? “The captions on the front page photos.”

Howell Raines

Howell Raines

* “I have sympathy with the fact that [Howell Raines] was such – he is really a great writer and he had lots of story ideas and he could see in his mind’s eye how he wanted them to come out on the other end. It was very frustrating to him when things didn’t wind up the way he hoped they were and when I was on the receiving end of that displeasure when he’d think some of the work when I was Washington bureau chief that was coming from the political correspondence and the Washington correspondence fell short he seemed sometimes impatient and too quick to be angry, but I think my sympathy is he had high standards, but very little time.”

* Here’s The Thing: Jill Abramson transcript | Listen to the interview (wnyc.org)

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