After former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson tweeted a spot-on criticism about the paper totally missing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory on Tuesday night, the Daily Beast followed up with her. As it turned out, she had a lot of constructive, well-deserved barbs to aim at the Gray Lady.
“I fear sounding like a jealous old-timer. I’ve resisted critiquing the place publicly, but this shit is bad,” Abramson—who was the first (and still only) female executive editor of the Times before enduring a very public firing—told the site. “[The Times is] making horrible mistakes left and right.”
She said the paper was “undeservedly stunned” by Democratic kingmaker Joe Crowley’s defeat, “letting down its readers.”
Perhaps even more spot-on was Abramson strongly criticizing the Times for its handling of the saga surrounding one of its reporters, Ali Watkins. Watkins is a national security reporter whose phone and email records were seized by the FBI. She was also involved in a four-year-long personal relationship with James Wolfe, the longtime former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The whole thing has turned into an ethical nightmare for journalism bigwigs who—in their eagerness to defend themselves in good faith—have absolutely no idea how to respond to the awful actors that have always relentlessly attacked them. The Times responded to all of this by publishing a hulking, 3,000-word deep dive on the scandal, a story that featured three bylines and the work of five other staffers. That’s insane enough, but the story was also invasive, gossipy, missed the larger issues at work entirely, and, overall, was the the kind of thing you could never, ever imagine running if the reporter had been a young white man.
In her email to the Beast, Abramson took the paper to task for publishing it:
That horrible 3,000-word exposé on Ali Watkins that aired her sex life and conflicts while not probing why she was hired, responsibility of editors, or, most crucially, the value of her journalism (her Carter Page scoop in BuzzFeed actually helped lead to appt of Mueller).
That story hung a 26-year-old young woman out to dry. It was unimaginable to me what the pain must be like for her.
Readers, meanwhile, the most important NYT constituency, were left in a state of confusion.
In a phone interview with the site, she went further:
The Ali Watkins profile, she said, “read like a steamy romance novel in parts,” adding that it amounted to “a front-page piece about ‘my love affair with someone.’ It’s just crucifying. How do you then show up for work? I don’t see a good resolution for that.”
All true! Say it louder for the people in back!
Abramson also roasted the Times’ willingness to involve its staffers in vanity projects:
Decision by international and new TV show plan to focus on personal feelings and experiences of NYT journalists covering news.
More narcissism: It’s always about us. Yikes. Distance is part of journalism’s discipline.
They need a course correction.
Am I wrong?
No, no, definitely not! In a moment where this profession and basically every corner of American life are under attack, the Times is working on—among many other things!—embarrassing shit like this.
While Abramson later told the Beast that her criticisms come from “a place of pure love” for the Times and said editor Dean Baquet is doing a bang-up job, I am free to say otherwise.