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Summary:

A short-term switch-up in digital at the New York Times. Executive Editor Bill Keller is sending Managing Editor Jill Abramson on a six-mont…

Jill Abramson

A short-term switch-up in digital at the New York Times. Executive Editor Bill Keller is sending Managing Editor Jill Abramson on a six-month immersion course in digital news — ending just about the time NYTimes.com goes to a metered paywall. Effective June 1, as Keller explained in a staff memo, Abramson will run the news part of the site and “fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world.” The aim is to “push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company’s digital strategy in all its ramifications.”

Keller expects all kinds of “entertaining nonsense” about the move and the editor rotation that will cover Abramson’s usual daily duties. Not sure how entertaining this is but here goes.

When Jon Landman switched to culture editor last fall from head of digital, he wasn’t replaced. In that memo, Keller explained that Landman made the case again it because it was time fo the top leadership to take full responsibility for the integrated newsroom. He added, “the main thing to say now is that Jill and I, in particular, see this as time to rearrange our priorities and devote more of our bandwidth to digital journalism.”

That was roughly eight months ago and several months before the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) committed to the meter strategy. I’m not sure about Abramson but even in our much smaller news organization it can be hard to find that extra bandwidth to focus intensely on one aspect in the crush of daily duties. This is one way to solve that and not a bad one. It will emphasize the importance of online news — and continued integration.

Abramson is clearly in the running to head the NYT and at this point in the paper’s trajectory, it makes little sense to consider someone who hasn’t had the experience of managing the online news operations.

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May 19 memo from Bill Keller

Colleagues:

Beginning June 1, Jill is going to take a six-month detour from the traditional Managing Editor role to run the news part of the Website and to fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world. Her aim will be to push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company’s digital strategy in all its ramifications. During this time she will largely disengage from day-to-day news coverage.

We have invited three editors — Larry Ingrassia, Dean Baquet and Susan Chira — each to fill in for two months as acting Managing Editor for News. Larry will step up for June and July, Dean for August and September, and Susan for October and November.

No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.) The real purpose is threefold: 1) to give us a chance to see some of our best editors applying their talents to the entire news report, in print and online, rather than to specific departments; 2) to give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure; and 3) to allow deputies in their departments to show what they can do with a couple months of greater authority and autonomy.

At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed. Jill will return to the ME job ready to guide the final lap of newsroom integration.

Best,

Bill

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  1. The headline is misleading, it seems. A “digital immersion course” would seem to be a time when she is going to go learn — as a student — how digital networks operate and how people interact. If she is simply going to “run” digital, I suspect this will be a massive failure as, once again, traditional journalists try to template atom thinking into a bit world. As they ignore 70 years of research and digital activity and instead try to force what THEY know onto the world.

    Ah well.

  2. Timothy Murray Thursday, May 20, 2010

    One piece of advice for Ms. Abramson. It has two parts: In the digital world reporter will get called out and abused if they use anonymous sources when they could name their sources. As head of digital, send stories back if they don’t name their sources. Reporters should use proper citations for written sources and hyperlinks to sources that are online. A link to a companies home page is the wrong link is the story is about a specific press release that can be found at a specific webpage. Let’s face it, brand credibility is not enough (the times lost much of it’s brand credibility when you testified on behalf of Judith Miller). The public will evaluate your sources for themselves. And that is a good thing for the Times and your customers.

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