Dylan Byers’ big “Turbulence at The Times” story, about the news organization under Executive Editor Jill Abramson’s leadership, has the look and feel of world-beating Politico scoop.
It mixes anonymously voiced insider accounts with a few protesting on-the-record sources to paint a picture of a newsroom so buffeted by personality conflicts that it just barely won four Pulitzer Prizes and calmly and accurately guided readers through the Boston bombings.
The festering conflict at the heart of all this triumph? Executive Editor Jill Abramson.
In recent months, Abramson has become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the Times newsroom. More than a dozen current and former members of the editorial staff, all of whom spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity, described her as stubborn and condescending, saying they found her difficult to work with.
OK, great, but if you set up a personality conflict piece, you shouldn’t keep shooting your premise in the foot with phrases like “Abramson is still respected there, while few doubt her wisdom or her experience” or with quotes from anonymous sources saying, “She’s an incredible talent. There’s no question she deserves to be where she is.”
Abramson is “brusque.” Once she made someone change a photo on the homepage, and she wasn’t nice about it. Her voice is unpleasant. She’s not in the newsroom as much as some staffers would like. And … that’s basically the prosecution’s case here.
A darker undercurrent runs through the piece, though, one that Managing Editor Dean Baquet attempts to pierce at the beginning. (He and Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy are the only Times sources who spoke on the record.)
“I think there’s a really easy caricature that some people have bought into, of the bitchy woman character and the guy who is sort of calmer,” Baquet told Byers. “That, I think, is a little bit of an unfair caricature.”