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New NYT Editor on Future of Narrative Journalism

First woman to helm paper spoke at COM conference

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In the video above, Jill Abramson, the new executive editor of the New York Times, discusses the future of narrative journalism in a keynote address at the College of Communication’s Power of Narrative conference April 30. Photo by Vernon Doucette. Video by BU Productions

When veteran journalist Jill Abramson was named executive editor of the New York Times last week, it was a watershed moment for the venerable newspaper. Abramson, who assumes the position in September after eight years as managing editor, will be the first woman to lead the Times in its 160-year history.

Long a champion of narrative journalism (she’s taught a narrative nonfiction writing seminar at Yale University each spring for the past five years), Abramson delivered one of the keynote addresses at the College of Communication’s Power of Narrative conference this past April, where she was introduced as “one of the most influential people in journalism, period,” by Pulitzer winner Isabel Wilkerson, a COM professor of journalism and director of narrative journalism.

Abramson told the conference audience that new technology would most likely bolster a “very robust future” for long-form nonfiction narrative. “Tablets and iPhones have given long-form narrative journalism a way to reach a new audience,” she said. “The long-form article isn’t only alive, it’s actually dancing to new music.”

In her new capacity at the Times, Abramson is expected to focus on integrating the paper’s digital and print operations. She recently spent six months helping to coordinate the paper’s online operations, a move she says she undertook to develop a firsthand understanding of what such an integration would entail.

“When Jill Abramson spoke, she embodied all the qualities that I believe matter in running the world’s most important news organization today,” says Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of COM. “She was passionate about investigative reporting. She was optimistic—even excited—about how the Times can prosper by presenting its journalism on an array of new platforms, from Twitter to videography…and perhaps most important, she believes ethical behavior is the fundamental foundation on which the Times will stand.”

Abramson came to the New York Times in 1997, after nearly a decade as a deputy bureau chief and investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Since joining the Times, the 57-year old Abramson has held a number of positions with the paper, including Washington editor and bureau chief.

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on New NYT Editor on Future of Narrative Journalism

  • Tom Fiedler on 06.10.2011 at 7:13 am

    John, Very well done. You found the perfect comments. It’s terrific when the new chief of the NYT is a friend of BU.

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