The New York Times has just announced that Jill Abramson will become its executive editor, the first woman to be the top editor of the paper. Abramson (who is an acquaintance) has excelled at everything she’s done as a journalist, from investigative reporting, to book writing, to editing. In a mirrorlike replay of the 2008 Democratic presidential race, the other top contender for the job was thought to be Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, who would have been the first black executive editor. He will become managing editor, the No. 2 job, which Abramson now holds.
Abramson ascends not just by being superb at what she does, but by being tough. She was one of the people former executive editor Howell Raines worked furiously to undercut during his brief reign of terror, which drove many talented people out of the paper. How sweet it must have been when he resigned following the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal (Raines had taken a strong interest in promoting Blair’s career). Abramson also survived being hit by a truck that ran her down while she was crossing the street in Manhattan. Her legs were smashed, she spent weeks in the hospital, and she had to learn to walk again. How wonderful to see just how well she’s landed on her feet.
The Times has a picture of outgoing executive editor Bill Keller (a white man) with Abramson and Baquet. And while it is worth celebrating that the top jobs at the New York Times will be held by a woman and a black man, what’s even better is, now that it’s happened, how unremarkable it will eventually seem.