Jill Abramson: Our Lady of Gray

The climb to Valhalla is treacherous—but lawyers, babies, Howell Raines and a barreling truck couldn’t keep Jill Abramson down.

“We don’t have to necessarily wear padded shoulders that make us look like men or be serious 24 hours a day about everything,” Ms. Mayer said. “She can both kick ass more than anyone as a news person and make a great salad dressing.

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“That’s the ultimate liberation,” she said.

WHEN A VIKING ASCENDED TO VALHALLA, it was said that Odin had claimed him for his army of gods, which would fight monsters during an apocalyptic event called Ragnarok, the “doom of powers.” Mr. Sulzberger and Times C.E.O. Janet Robinson might have been thinking along the same lines in lifting Ms. Abramson from the newsroom.

Mr. Keller saw the paper through the integration of the digital newsroom and the implementation of the pay wall, but it will be Ms. Abramson under whom the ventures’ success or failure will be determined. She trained for the task during a three-month digital media tour that was termed “Jill’s Big Adventure.”

“The customer is going to be looking at content across several platforms; the challenge is maintaining editorial standards across platforms,” Mr. Pearlstine said. “How do you encourage a different voice? How much do you demand a brand be consistent?”

Here, Ms. Abramson’s split editorial personalities—the three books she’s written are a feminist history, a nonfiction book of political and judicial analysis and a puppy memoir, after all—could give her the fluency to mesh the Times’sdisparate operations.

It helps to have a family full of digital natives. After Ms. Abramson bought her daughter a Times subscription, Ms. Griggs told her to cancel it a year later. “I was just recycling it,” Ms. Griggs said. She’s part of the generation that consumes all its news online or on mobile, she added. She and her boyfriend, who works in technology in New York, generate ideas and feedback for Ms. Abramson. She thinks engaging the online community in a savvier way should be a priority for the Times.

“The comments right now are sort of static,” said Ms. Griggs, “My mom knows I feel that way.”

The job also involves defending the Times’s expensive operations to the Sulzbergers, who have not seen a dividend on their Times shares since 2009. According to an Adweek report from the annual meeting last month, some shareholders are getting antsy.

This all still seemed a distant concern on Thursday evening, when The Observer bumped into Ms. Abramson deep in the winding cave of the 42nd Street-Port Authority subway station.

At that moment, Ms. Abramson was an national trending topic on Twitter, but she walked through the station unnoticed, accompanied by her predecessor, Mr. Keller.

They were on their way to dinner.


Jill Abramson: Our Lady of Gray