Former managing editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson has just taken over as editor-in-chief of the New York Times, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the history of the venerable paper. Check out this excerpt of a profile of Abramson in this week’s New Yorker:
Once, it was preposterous to think that a woman could become the editor of the Times. When Eileen Shanahan, who went on to become a well-respected economics reporter, arrived for an interview with Clifton Daniel, the managing editor, in 1962, she hid her desire to become an editor. “All I ever want is to be a reporter on the best newspaper in the world,” she told him.
“That’s good,” Daniel responded, as Shanahan told the story, “because I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.”
Four decades ago, women and minorities were second-class citizens at the paper. According to Nan Robertson’s book “The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men, and the New York Times,” only forty of the Times’ four hundred and twenty-five reporters were women, and this included not a single national correspondent. There were no female photographers, columnists, or editorial-board members. Not a single black journalist rose above the position of reporter.
In the late nineteen-seventies, after facing multiple lawsuits alleging discrimination against women and minorities, the company became more aggressive in promoting and recruiting staffers who weren’t white men. By 2010, forty-one per cent of the editors and supervisors were women; just under twenty per cent of all employees were minorities; and thirteen per cent of supervisory positions were held by minorities.
This June, the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., announced the appointment of Abramson and of Dean Baquet, who is black, as the new managing editor. Many who gathered in the newsroom that day were thinking of this history. Not a few women cried. Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor, says that she kept thinking that when she joined the Times, in 1981, many Times women were “sad, bitter, angry people who were talented but who had been thwarted.” Editors openly propositioned young women. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come. To see Jill take the mantle, I felt tingling. You have to praise and savor when a woman can earn it through merit. No tokenism here. Jill studied for this job. She earned it.”