It has become almost traditional for Ken Auletta to weigh in at length in the New Yorker on major media figures, and Jill Abramson certainly qualifies. I don't have time to read the piece right now, but here it is in today's issue. And here's how the profile begins:
At nine o’clock on the morning of September 6th, Jill Abramson was riding the subway uptown from her Tribeca loft. It was her first day as executive editor of the New York Times, and also the first time in the paper’s hundred and sixty years that a woman’s name would appear at the top of the masthead. Abramson described herself as “excited,” because of the history she was about to make, and “a little nervous,” because she knew that many in the newsroom feared her.
Abramson, who is fifty-seven, wore a white dress and a black cardigan with white flowers and red trim. Her usually pale complexion glowed from summer sun, but there were deep, dark lines under her eyes. As she entered the Times Building, she waved to the security officers and greeted colleagues in the elevator, something that she had usually been too preoccupied to do. The vast newsroom was quiet—the place does not really come alive until about ten-thirty—but there was a hint of apprehension. The few reporters at their pods silently watched their new boss as she walked by.
Abramson put her purse down on a white Formica desk that she occupies in the middle of the third-floor newsroom. Someone had left her a sealed envelope with “Congratulations” written on the front. It contained a cover note from a female editor at the paper along with a laminated letter passed down from that editor’s father. The letter was from a nine-year-old girl named Alexandra Early, who wrote that she got mad when she watched television: “That’s because I’m a girl and there aren’t enough girl superheroes on TV.” The cover note to Abramson said, “Wherever Alexandra Early ended up, I hope that she heard about your new job.”
Abramson had previously been the paper’s managing editor, and many in the newsroom considered her to be intimidating and brusque; she was too remote and, they thought, slightly similar to an earlier executive editor, the talented but volcanic Howell Raines, who had also begun the job right after Labor Day, in 2001. After less than two years, Raines was forced out, and his memory is still cursed. So Abramson made a point of doing something that Raines was unlikely to have done: walking over and calling out, “Good morning, Metro desk!”