“We’ve never done anything like this,” said Rick Berke, assistant managing editor of The New York Times.
It was Monday night at the TimesCenter and Mr. Berke made this announcement on a well-lit stage in a dark auditorium as he prepared to interview his two bosses, Times executive editor Bill Keller and managing editor Jill Abramson, at an event called “Behind the Scenes at The New York Times.”
Paying $20, a few hundred Times readers showed up for this first-time stab at putting a little color into The Times‘ gray masthead.
For some weeks now, the top Times editors have seemed to want to bring in all the publicity they can muster. Last week, Bill Keller had his first A1 byline in 14 years when he traveled to Iran; Mr. Keller and Mr. Berke made a widely panned Daily Show appearance nearly two weeks ago; and Mr. Keller appeared on This Week and Reliable Sources on Sunday.
And how did Mr. Keller and Ms. Abramson sell themselves when they opened the doors to their house last night? As accomplished and humble former star reporters who never dreamed that one day they’d be editors; as people with powerful rivals and friends; as editors who work in tandem with a quirky, Oscar-and-Felix distinctiveness.
With all this human interest in the air, it was 63 minutes before we heard a word about The Times‘ current economic crisis, and even then, the topic was barely touched. Instead, we learned all about Bill and Jill and how they’re people, just like us.
As a result, few news advances were made last night (one little bit of news, however, involved David Rohde’s abduction, which you’ll find below), but there were several interesting things we learned, like how Jill Abramson first bonded with future best friend Maureen Dowd after they laughed at hearing the word “penis.”
Here are 10 things we didn’t know before about The Times:
10. Every morning Bill Keller reads The Times first, then The Journal; every morning Jill Abramson reads The Times first, then The Journal.
9. Bill Keller reads the print editions first; Jill Abramson reads online first.
8. Bill Keller has no use for CNN anymore; he wants news, not opinion.
7. The first thing Jill looks at in The Times every day is the Arts report, and then Arts, Briefly. Then she turns to the Business section.
6. Bill Keller considered David Remnick his biggest rival in his reporting days.
5. When Jill Abramson was an editor at Legal Times, one of her first hires was Terry Moran, at a salary of $11,000.
4. Bill Keller is optimistic about the future; Jill Abramson works in “the department of dark worries”
3. Even though they had a “professional shotgun marriage,” both claim that they work in perfect harmony; Bill is the “soul of intellgience,” said Jill Abramson, and she said she was the “chatty Cathy.”
2. Jill Abramson first bonded with her self-described best friend at The Times, Maureen Dowd, when they covered the Clarence Thomas hearings (Abramson for The Journal, Dowd for The Times). When they heard the word “penis … uttered in the very stately Senate caucus room,” they looked at each other across from the press table and “We couldn’t believe this was happening!” A friendship was born.
1. Bill Keller on David Rohde: “I was relieved this morning when I talked to David and he said, ‘By the way, thank you for not making a public event out of this. We heard the people who kidnapped me were obsessed with my value in the marketplace. If there were a lot of news stories, they would have held me much tighter.”
UPDATE, 1:12 PM: Bill Keller also appeared on NewsHour last night to discuss the kidnapping.