Jill Abramson, clearing her throat in advance of ‘damaging’ New York magazine piece

Jill Abramson. ()
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In the new issue of Newsweek (need we still remind you that it's a digital-only publication these days?), there's an elaborate profile of Jill Abramson that portrays the New York Times executive editor as the tough and meticulous but nonetheless vulnerable leader of the world's foremost journalistic institution.

It's the most intimate portrait of the Upper West Side-bred 59-year-old to emerge since she was given the Ken Auletta treatment in an October 2011 issue of The New Yorker. And with its overall favorable tone, it must be a breath of fresh air for Abramson following the more aggressive angle Politico took on her less than two-year-old tenure several months ago.

This is an access piece through and through, by admission. The author, veteran V.I.P.-profiler Lloyd Grove, writes that he's "known Abramson professionally since her D.C. days." The trade-off? He was able to get closer to the power brokers at the Times than most media reporters ever manage.

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The piece is built around a lengthy chat with Abramson "sitting side by side in modernist leather settees on an airy balcony overlooking the sun-dappled company cafeteria." (“I’m the executive editor—I need to be here for a little while. You can tell your boss to come talk to me, OK?,” she instructs a young maintenance worker who'd attemped to clear their spots while setting up for a corporate event). Even rarer was Grove's invitation for breakfast in the corporate dining room with Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and C.E.O. Mark Thompson.

But as is often the case with a feature like this, there's less news than, say, the type of feature where the reporter spends months interviewing dozens of people to dig up dirt on what's happening behind the scenes. (And perhaps the Times' generous participation was in part motivated by the fact that New York magazine is gearing up to publish what Women's Wear Daily described this week as "a damaging portrait of Times management.")

Of course there are a few nuggets, mostly in places where Abramson was willing to give Grove what she might have been less inclined to give other reporters.

-On reading the Politico piece:

“I cried,” Abramson tells me. “I should say it went right off me, but I’m just being honest. I did cry. But by the next morning, I wasn’t completely preoccupied by it anymore. I had my cry and that was that. And [Times Co. chairman] Arthur Sulzberger came down and was very supportive. He basically said, ‘It goes with the territory. Don’t let it get to you.’ ” The publisher also invoked what he calls the Second Law of Journalism: “It’s not your fault. It’s just your turn.”

-On losing Nate Silver to ESPN:

In the end, “Nate is invested in the brand of Nate,” Abramson says. “And I was invested in what I thought was a fabulous combination, which is FiveThirtyEight in The New York Times—which I do think greatly increased people’s interest in it, and its reach and its impact. And in my view he didn’t assign enough value to that, and that’s why we lost him.” Silver declined to comment.

-On watching Thompson weigh in on a tough editorial decision:

“And Jill was looking at me very intently. Well, I’m pretty well brought up. I knew the right answer: ‘Print it!’ ” (Abramson confirms that she was watching Thompson closely: “I wanted to know: ‘Are you a man or a mouse?’"

You can read the full piece, presented in Newsweek's snappy new parallax-design (cf. the Times' famous "Snow Fall feature), right here.

Special bonus: Capital's Reid Pillifant snapped this photo yesterday of Abramson and Dowd on stakeout duty, waiting for Anthony Weiner outside of the West 43rd Street offices of SEIU where he was attending a mayoral forum. Weiner didn't stop to answer questions, though.

In other news...

Keith Kelly reports that Jay Penske is interested in buying Newsweek. [New York Post]

David Freedlander profiles Fox News vet Lauren Green in the wake of her Reza Aslan flop. [The Daily Beast]

The Fix declares itself dunzo amid a legal battle with founder Maer Roshan. [NYDN/Confidential]

On Choire Sicha's new book and the rise of "post fiction." [The New York Observer]

The New York Times is rolling out a "news operation in London intended to drive business coverage in Europe." [Talking Biz News]

Quote of the day...

In the cases of mega-leakers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, the United States has sent a crude but clear message: if you’re thinking of violating your obligation to keep secrets, think again, because we will track you down and smack you down. You may be sainted whistleblowers in the eyes of some, but you are traitors in the eyes of your government.

Bill Keller

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Julian Assange praised Bradley Manning in the wake of Manning's conviction on espionage charges:

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Former New York Times Company communications boss Bob Christie has been working on a pet project since his departure from the newspaper earlier this year. Here's the press release he sent out yesterday:

ChalkTalk (FanChalkTalk.com), a destination designed to help the casual fan become more knowledgeable about baseball and to enhance their own fan experience, is launching today.

ChalkTalk will offer content that helps to explain core sports concepts, provide important context about games and matchups, and share insights to help fans better understand and enjoy their experience as a fan. The site features a mix of original and curated content, including video commentary from expert voices - including coaches, current and former athletes, media/bloggers, and other fans. Initially the project will focus on baseball, highlighting issues and topics that are frequently overlooked by traditional sports media.

The project is led by Brian Reich, who is editor and founder, and former MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman, who was appointed contributing editor.

"Sports -- and sports media -- is part of everyday life. And almost everyone is a sports fan - but every fan has their own interests and questions, their fan experience is unique," said Reich. "Our goal is to help the fan develop a better appreciation for baseball - to give them the information they need to enjoy their own fan experience.

"Today's launch is a beta format, and fans are encouraged to not just visit, but also contribute their ideas and engage with the team," he continued.

ChalkTalk will feature information about sports that fans will enjoy, which will include:

FanFood: The news and information that a fan needs to know to better understand and enjoy the game of baseball -- what's really happening on the field, what to watch for in a game, and more, featuring video commentary from experts.

Lineup Card: A curated list of the must-read/watch items about what is happening in baseball - and the insights a fan needs to understand how to translate that knowledge into practice.

ChalkTalk Q&A: A forum that invites fans to submit their questions about baseball and have them answered by an expert.

Content is based on original interviews with the people who understand and can explain sports best - the coaches, athletes, media and fans themselves. Content is packaged into modules featuring video, text, graphics, and curated articles that can be organized and distributed across a variety of channels and devices, shared, and discussed.

"We know that fans need more and better information to help support their interest in baseball. Our focus is on serving the interests of the fans - so we are inviting fans to help guide and shape the content on the site, to tell us what they want to know, what they are curious about, and what they can't find elsewhere in sports media," explained Reich.