The first female editor of the world’s most innovative and widely read online news source made a confession Friday: Nothing compares to the journalistic thrill she gets from grabbing the morning paper. In print.
The confession came from Jill Abramson, the new executive editor of The New York Times.
She spoke to a ballroom full of New Haven movers and shakers gathered for lunch at the Omni Hotel ballroom to watch her receive the 2011 “Visionary Leadership Award” from the International Festival of Arts & Ideas—and to dish about life behind the curtain at the Gray Lady.
Abramson (at left in top photo) did that in the form of an onstage conversation with retired NYT Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse (at right). It was, in a sense, a chat between two locals: Greenhouse grew up in Hamden and has moved back to downtown New Haven to teach at Yale Law School (when she’s not filing a regular online Times column). Abramson has a weekend house in Madison. She taught a course at Yale until this fall, when she went on hiatus to meet the greater demands of her new job.
During their conversation, Abramson described the excitement of sped-up newsgathering and presentation now that the Times, other legacy print dailies, has moved to an online-first breaking-news mentality.
But she said the most exciting moment of the day remains picking up the morning print edition of the paper hot off the presses.
She compared that moment to a scene in an old movie, “when Cary Grant is the male lead [and] Jean Arthur is the female lead. She wears heavy glasses; they try to fool you. There’s always the moment when Cary Grant takes off [her] glasses and say, ‘My, you’re beautiful!’”
“When I see [the Times] fresh in the morning, even though I’ve been so involved in making it the night before,” Abramson continued, “I say, ‘My, you’re beautiful.’”
The lunch was preceded by a hobnobbing hour up at John Davenport’s Restaurant on the Omni’s 19th floor, where the event’s organizers, A&I board Chair Gordon Geballe (at left in photo), prepared for a dutiful round of official grip-and-grin photos.
It was officially a New Haven Event, given the presence of the indefatigable Louise Endel, among other notables (90! Can you believe?) ...
... public library board chair Elsie Chapman ...
.. and First Niagara’s New Haven-based exec Paul McCraven.
The Shubert’s John Fisher wore a tie that fit in with the Davenport colonial theme, bearing the signatures from the Declaration of Independence. NewAlliance Foundation’s Maryann Ott was duly impressed.
More boldfaced names assembled downstairs for the luncheon, including Mayor John DeStefano (at left in photo), whose name produced 804 search results on the Times website as of Friday afternoon.
Fair Haven organizer and Community Foundation staffer Lee Cruz (center) schmoozed with Christopher Hoffman, the voice of New Haven’s public schools, before the event began ...
... and West River community organizer Kevin Ewing met local author Roya Hakakian. Hakakian, like Jill Abramson, has a hot new book out. Hakakian’s book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, is (according to an official blurb) “a nonfiction political thriller detailing the Mykonos assassinations of Iranian opposition leaders in Berlin, Germany in 1992 and the resulting trial.” Abramson’s is about raising a puppy named Scout.
In the luncheon discussion, Linda Greenhouse asked Abramson what she learned about management in the process of raising Scout.
When “you think you have things under control, you don’t,” Abramson replied. “You have to take your clues from others—whether it’s a puppy with its own ideas about where it wants to walk or what it wants to eat ... or talented journalists.”