Puppy Love for Jill Abramson

The news of buyouts the Times was just one element of the perfect storm of press that descended upon Ms.

The news of buyouts the Times was just one element of the perfect storm of press that descended upon Ms. Abramson last week, including a Ken Auletta New Yorker profile and a deluge of critical slobbering over her recently released “dogoir,” The Puppy Diaries. It was reviewed in the Thursday arts section and in The Sunday Book Review, a treatment typically reserved for the most anticipated releases. Even Emma Gilbey Keller, wife of Ms. Abramson’s predecessor Bill Keller, only received one review for The Comeback: Seven Stories of Women Who Went from Career to Family and Back Again.

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(It might have helped that The Puppy Diaries was published by Times Books.)

To avoid an editor-has-no-clothes scenario, the Arts and Book Review sections assigned their reviews to two writers whose job security does not depend on Ms. Abramson’s esteem, John Grogan and Alexandra Styron, respectively.

Outside reviewers aren’t always kind to Times writers. Earlier this year, pinch hitter Michael Kinsley was asked to review the documentary Page One. “See His Girl Friday” again, he told readers.

Mr. Grogan, author of the dog owner’s tear-jerker–turned–major motion picture Marley & Me, seemed a safer bet, and he raved about Ms. Abramson’s book. His only complaint was that it was a little too serious.

“Ms. Abramson writes with intelligence and grace and never descends into the saccharine,” he wrote, adding that part of him “wishes she had forgotten about her serious-journalist credentials and had more fun.”

On Sunday, Ms. Styron (son of William Styron and a celebrated “dadoirist”) wrote appreciatively of Ms. Abramson’s ability to “vanquish the writer’s self-regarding pose” and to emerge with an “unaffected, unironic, and lovingly goofy […] golden retriever of a memoir.”

But The Puppy Diaries is not merely a poorly timed,  half-endearing and half-embarrassing assemblage of personal anecdotes from the executive editor’s less high-profile past. The book is based on a Times blog of the same name, which taught Ms. Abramson a lot about digital journalism, she told Sam Tanenhaus on the Times’s Arts Beat books podcast. The blog was her first experience with interactive journalism, and helped shape her thinking about the ongoing transformation of the Times’s newsroom.

“Readers want it all, and they want it as soon as you can give it to them,” she said. “They want to combine pictures and video, they want to comment, they want to talk to other dog owners.” Recalling that her invitation to readers to send in pictures of their own pets had crashed the website, she pointed out, “Journalism is no longer simply the authority of a reporter or editor telling an audience what the facts are and what to think of them. It’s more of a vigorous back and forth.”

The best part of The Puppy Diaries, Mr. Grogan noted in his review, is the “insight into the private sensibilities of the Times’s top editor, the final arbiter of what ends up on the page.”

Unless it has to do with puppies, that is. In the book, she writes that Mr. Keller noticed an increase in dog stories being pitched for page one after her blog debuted. “To curb the trend,” she added, “he urged me to recuse myself from any discussion about a proposed dog story.”

The book also offers a glimpse of her managerial style.

“In one’s relationship with dogs and with a newsroom, a generous amount of praise and encouragement goes much better than criticism,” she told The New Yorker.


Puppy Love for Jill Abramson