Former Top NY Times Editor: Newspaper Making 'Horrible Mistakes,' Needs 'Course Correction'

June 29th, 2018 6:27 AM

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson issued a "public spanking" of her own newspaper over its recent coverage -- or lack of coverage, starting with socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a House Democrat primary.

Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast expanded the story beyond the tweet. A few hours after Abramson’s tweet, the headline  “Who is Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez?” was changed online to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A 28-Year-Old Democratic Giant Slayer.”

The Times was definitely napping. Ocasio-Cortez drew her first notice only a month ago, at the top of a front-page story on May 28 on female candidates.

The question went out late one night on a private message chain of insurgent female candidates for Congress: Do you really attack a fellow Democrat?

''I feel like I've been pulling punches,'' wrote Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is challenging a longtime Democratic incumbent, Joe Crowley of New York, in a primary. ''Do you ever get any pushback from voters, or those who don't want 'party infighting?'''

Within the hour, peers from Texas, Washington State and North Carolina had weighed in: Keep up the fight.

The Thursday before the election, another story on page A-18 noted someone else was covering the campaign with more oomph: "the news site The Intercept has generated a drumbeat of negative stories on Mr. Crowley."

Abramson added to her complaint in an email to Grove at the Daily Beast: 

“I’m feeling about the NYT now like I did when my son cheated on a test in 10th grade,” she wrote. “I loved him to death, believed he was a thoroughly wonderful young man, but he needed a course correction. So I left my desk at The NYT, where I was DC [Bureau] Chief, met his school bus and read him the riot act. He needed a course correction.

“So does the NYT… it’s making horrible mistakes left and right."

That included the Crowley upset and: 

"That horrible 3,000-word exposé on Ali Watkins [the Times reporter who’s caught up in a leak investigation involving her ex-boyfriend, a former top staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee] that aired her sex life and conflicts while not probing why she was hired, responsibility of editors, or, most crucially, the value of her journalism (her Carter Page scoop in BuzzFeed actually helped lead to appt of Mueller).

“That story hung a 26-year-old young woman out to dry. It was unimaginable to me what the pain must be like for her."

....The Ali Watkins profile, she said, “read like a steamy romance novel in parts,” adding that it amounted to “a front-page piece about ‘my love affair with someone.’ It’s just crucifying. How do you then show up for work? I don’t see a good resolution for that.”

This would seem to miss the ethical questions about a young woman sleeping with a middle-aged source to get stories. But typically, Abramson is opposed to anyone asking how the Times makes these stories. “As journalists, we want to leap to the defense of anybody embroiled in this hideous leak investigation,” she said.