Jill Abramson: Being first on a story is a ‘point of pride’

PRX | The Daily Beast

At a talk at the Chautauqua Institution Wednesday, an audience member asked former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson why being first is “so important for the press.”

Abramson admitted she sometimes asks herself the same thing: “sometimes given the speed at which even a tweet gets picked up, sometimes I did say to myself why is it so darned important because everybody knows everything — the boom effect in the media is so immediate now and so loud,” she said.

But: “again being candid with you, it’s kind of a point of pride.”

It’s considered, when you’re a news organization, a bit of a humiliation to be scooped. I mean, it’s terrible and thank goodness this happened very seldom at the Times that you would have a scoop to be wrong or even to have false information in it. Obviously, the worst-case scenario is being first with a wrong story or a bad story. But you get credited when you break a big story. Often, I’ll turn on NPR if I’m driving now and I’ll be happy, I’ll hear them say, “The New York Times reported today,” and you get credit for a big story and that is part of sort of the professional reward of being a good journalist is when you have a scoop and disclose a really important, consequential story that reverberates and you get credit for it, so that’s why.

Abramson also talked about her dismissal from the Times. “I was fired because of my quote-unquote management skills—and to be honest with you, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means,” The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift reports she said.

Abramson also talked about Edward Snowden, Clift reports: “It was a bad day for me,” Abramson said about Snowden entrusting his secrets to reporters from The Guardian and The Washington Post rather than the Times. “I had been beaten on the biggest story of this time.”

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