The Shmooze

Jill Abramson Champions Freedom of The Press

By Masha Leon

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“She was reading the New York Times before she could transfer to a bottle,”Gail Sheehy said of Jill Abramson, at the July 15 reception she hosted at her Manhattan duplex for the former executive editor of The New York Times.

Author of 16 books — including megahit “Passages,” Sheehy touted Abramson as “among the first to invade the all-male testosterone preserve at Harvard…and because of her, the New York Times has an equal number of men and women on [its] masthead.”

Sponsored by The Common Good as part of its Leadership Series, the more than 50 guests included former, still active and young wannabe journalists. Standing on a white plastic stool — so she could be seen — barefoot in-a-chic-black and white pattern sleeveless dress, Abramson declared: ”The First Amendment is first for a reason… Jefferson famously said if you had to choose between having a country with a government and no newspapers — or the opposite — he would say that having newspapers is more important than the government. The founders of this country were desperately afraid of highly centralized power and believed that a free press was necessary to hold the government accountable to the people” and that “stories from [accused] whistle-blowers — if they are indeed the sources — were very much in the spirit Jefferson envisioned.”

Karen Leon
Jill Abramson

Abramson stated: “When Obama came into the White House, he pledged to have the most transparent administration ever… and in certain ways the Obama administration had been good — declassified millions of documents. But in terms of these leaks… they have been unusually tough, aggressive and I see that as a really disturbing trend.”

Asked about the future of journalism, Abramson admitted: “I know quality journalism still happens… it’s hard…. There are fewer outlets than in the past. But I am an optimist.” Apropos “gender bias” Abramson honed in on “the attention given to Hillary Clinton’”s hair and clothes… Women in all areas, including journalism, are scrutinized about trivial and personal qualities in ways that men are not… Hillary Clinton has been criticized, as being overbearing, too aggressive — qualities that found in a man, are seen as decisive and leaderly. Yes. There is a double standard for sure.”

A surprising and informative query was posed by Patrick Bahners of the Frankfurter Alegemeiner Zeitung. “I’ve been here two years… and am impressed by American journalism. In particular,” he noted, “the strict separation of reporting and editorial comments — almost like a separation of powers… That is not as strong in European journalism. One thing I learned was: the rule that you must give a source for every statement in political reporting where people are quoted.”

Did not get a chance to ask Abramson why she sported a classic NYC token tattoo on her right upper arm.


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