• Tue, Oct 18 2011

Jill Abramson Learned To Shut Up And Listen To Get To The Top

In the new New Yorker magazine profile by Ken Auletta it’s revealed that what pushed Jill Abramson to the front of the pack as the replacement for Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times was her honesty about her faults. Though women are always told they need to state their accomplishments more, then managing editor Jill said in her interview with publisher Arthur Sulzberger that  she admitted she needed to work on listening more and talking less, and not interrupting. Her honesty obviously helped her land the job as well as strong recommendations from Keller and Janet Robinson. It is interesting because often women are told they need to speak up more in addition to listening. But by showing that she was aware of what she needed to work on she came across as smart and determined.

The profile paints an honest portrayal of the first female editor of The New York Times ever. He describes her manner as “brusque.” Jeff Gerth, an investigative reporter, says in the article, “She was a great team leader, a loyal friend, someone you’d want in the trenches with you. But if you didn’t meet her high professional standards you were not on her team.” She was also described as being short with people and sometimes berating people publicly if they didn’t meet her standards. Auletta describes her as being similar to former editor Howell Raines, but unlike him, people didn’t think she was mean. “Her negativity is unintended,” an editor tells Auletta. It is interesting that the author chooses to include all these details instead of just making her look like another woman that has risen to the top partly because of her bitchy attitude. In the article Sally Singer, editor of The New York Times’ magazine T said, “When women are blunt, maybe it’s seen as ‘tough,’ but actually it’s just efficient. ” Singer formerly worked for Anna Wintour at Vogue so she knows a thing or two.

The article also makes it clear that she is not someone who reached the top and pulled the ladder up behind her. Auletta wrote:

During Abramson’s tenure as managing editor, many women at the Times came to see her as their advocate. When women received promotions, Abramson often hosted a celebratory party for them. These events got to be so frequent, the European correspondent Suzanne Daley joked, “it almost became ‘Oh, God, another party!’ I credit her with being the first woman to hit that level and actually bring other people along.”

I’d also like to commend her for deciding to write a book about raising her dog. As a hard-hitting New York Times journalist Auletta conveys that the choice to write a book about something so personal and, well, cute drew a lot of flack. “She knew before she did The Puppy Diaries that she would get a lot of grief,” Trish Hall, the deputy editorial-page editor who edited the column, says. “She didn’t care. I like it that she’s got this rich life. It used to be that women wouldn’t talk about when their kid had a dentist appointment. Jill doesn’t pretend that work is the only thing in her life.” Here is a top notch career woman deciding to write about the life side of the work life balance.


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