Today is Jill Abramson's first official day as the editor of The New York Times. Congratulations, Jill. We, the faceless Cheeto-eating bloggers of America, lovehate the New York Times as much as you do. Some unwanted advice, below.
- Fix Your Columnist Problem: Funny how truckloads of responsible, brave, and important journalism can be outweighed, in the public mind, by a handful of shitty opinion columnists. The NYT's name-brand columnists are, to a large extent, an embarrassment to the paper. You can have literally anyone write for you. Make better choices. (This also means not giving the new guys a free pass to embarrass themselves.) We know that the opinion columnists are not necessarily your direct responsibility. But do it for the good of the brand.
- Diversify: First female editor! You are a living symbol of the NYT's diversification. Don't be the last! The NYT has "come a long way" from its all-white-dude past, clearly. More women, more black people, more Latinos; the paper's been working to make that happen, and all of that should continue. That's great. But the truth is that the NYT is still a very insular place, full of upper-middle-class graduates of private schools and fancy colleges. That is not, in fact, diversity, no matter how many colors it comes in. Make a real effort to hire some people who grew up poor. Hire some people who went to shitty state schools. Hire some people who dropped out of college. Hire people whose social groups don't coincide with the dominant ones at the New York Times. This will take effort. It is a purposeful move make your workplace less comfortable, in fact! But you can do it. You can hire anyone. It will be worth it.
- Commit to Hiring Strong Public Editors: Yes, public editors are a pain in the ass for NYT editors. And the public editor you have now is a miss. But a good public editor is priceless for your paper's credibility, and comes at a relatively low cost. HEY, I hear Jack Shafer needs a new job?
- Write for Everyone: The New York Times is not the paper of the rich, no matter what your ad sales and circulation departments say. The New York Times is the paper of record. You are the best newspaper in America. And America today is mostly financially crippled and mostly powerless. The NYT does as much great journalism on these issues as anyone; but the paper also still covets its role as official court stenographer to the US government. Resist that dynamic. It earns you scoops but robs your paper of some of its potential for good. You are the agenda setter. Think long and hard about what that agenda should be. (And please, do something about the Styles section. Something.)
- Keep Up the Good Work: Seriously! You guys are the best. We mostly write griping negative things about you—but only because we hold you to the highest standards. Because you are literally the very best paper in America, if not the world. Keep up that international coverage that others are reluctant or incapable of springing for. Keep up the boring, lengthy investigative stories that bring about actual changes. Keep publishing some of America's very best business, metro, and sports journalism every god damn day. Do it all! Never stop! And get better constantly! For better or worse, we will have our eye on you.