Jill Abramson has written a book, Merchants of Truth, about the changes in the news business in the last decade, one that offers important background material for understanding some of the headline political events of our day. Abramson worked for three years (2011-2014) as executive editor of The New York Times.
Abramson’s book has much to say about Jeff Bezos, the billionaire who founded Amazon.com and who bought the Washington Post in 2013. She believes that Bezos’ influence there has been positive, that he has helped that old-line newspaper adapt to the digital age.
Abramson writes that for a long time the Post kept a famous front page from 1974, the “Nixon Resigns” page, prominently displayed in its editorial office. But, she says, Bezos’ new regime has removed that, and the walls of that office are now dominated by “flat-screens displaying real-time traffic statistics on how many readers [are] looking at each story.” This change in decor serves as a symbol for her of a turning away from past glories toward the tackling of today’s challenges.
Bezos of course is in the headlines himself this week as he responds to what he charges was a blackmail effort at his expense by the company that owns the National Enquirer.
The Thing to Know:
Abramson’s book portrays President Donald Trump as having served as a catalyst for the revival of The New York Times and of old-line “mainstream” journalism in general. The Times in particular has learned not to be shy about its partisanship, to call out the President and to say that he has lied when in fact he has lied. That has been healthy for the paper, she believes.