Want to break your own media news? Don't tell anyone in the newsroom anything!

The news that Jill Abramson was being replaced as New York Times executive editor "was tightly held within the gossipy confines of the Times newsroom," Erik Wemple reports in The Washington Post. "It was only after the meeting among top editors had convened that the New York Times communications department informed the paper’s own reporters that a management change was underway, according to a source at the paper. That was about a half-hour before the official announcement."

Nevertheless, news of Abramson's ouster hit Politico with the same timestamp as the Times Co. email announcing the change.

Dylan Byers, the Politico reporter who reported the Abramson news, didn't want to disclose his sources when reached by email. But the Times kept an admirably deathlike grip on the news, considering its large population of individuals who are among the least likely people on this planet to sit on juicy gossip: journalists.

When The Washington Post planned to break the news that Jeff Bezos had bought the newspaper, Executive Editor Marty Baron swore Paul Farhi to secrecy before he asked him to write a story about the change.

No one else in the newsroom was officially informed,” Baron told Poynter.

Farhi talked with Poynter about knowing the news and not being able to tell his colleagues:

Farhi ... began to “walk around the newsroom,” he said, feeling a bit like he was in a dream where he knew some major event was coming — “oh, by the way, did you know the Germans are going to invade Poland,” he said by way of an example — but was unable to share the information.

I make my living in part by getting leaks from newsrooms, but in the interest of transparency, these cases make a compelling argument for one particular management lesson: If you have big news about your media organization, and you want to get it out first, under no circumstances should you let anyone in your newsroom know.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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