Friday, August 29, 2014

Tattooed, puppy-stealing badass editor Jill Abramson out at the New York Times

Brad Barket/Getty Images for WIRED

The New York Times has dismissed Jill Abramson from her position as executive editor, a job she took in 2011, and replaced her with managing editor Dean Baquet. The reasons for her removal are not yet clear; publisher Arthur Sulzberger cited only "an issue with management in the newsroom." And the decision is surprising, given that the New York Times has thrived as a business under Abramson's tenure.

What we do know for sure about Abramson is that she had a well-earned reputation for being, there is no better way to put this, a total badass. She has four tattoos, including, on her back, the T in the New York Times logo. She was hit by a truck, which ran her over after striking her, and turned the experience into a long-form piece about pedestrian injuries.

Abramson also, in 1991, was one of the lead reporters nationwide on law professor Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Abramson, then of the Wall Street Journal, was so crucial to the Hill controversy, which almost derailed Thomas's nomination, that she co-wrote a book about it along with fellow Journal reporter Jane Mayer.

That wasn't Abramson and Mayer's only adventure. During the investigation, while they were shaping the course of Thomas's nomination, the pair also broke into Mayer's ex-boyfriend's house to steal back a puppy that he'd taken from Mayer. Yes, really. Here's the anecdote, from Abramson's book, "The Puppy Diaries" (hat tip to Chris Heller):

Over the years, Jane and I had enjoyed many capers, both professional and personal. We had cowritten a best-selling book about Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, a project that involved some of the most challenging reporting of our careers. This undertaking did have its lighter moments, however; in one instance, our investigation required that we watch X-rated videos featuring a porn star named Bad Mama Jama, and they were so ridiculous and boring that we both fell asleep on my living room couch.

A couple of years earlier, we had rescued Jane's lovable yellow Lab, Peaches, from the clutches of a very bad boyfriend who had insisted on keeping Peaches after he and Jane split up. One hot Friday, as I was planning a drive to New England for a summer vacation with the kids and Buddy, Jane enlisted my help in a plot to kidnap Peaches. That afternoon, while the boyfriend was still at work, we pulled up to his house in my creaky green minivan. Jane was so tiny that she had no trouble sneaking into the house through the dog door. In a flash, she emerged through the front door with Peaches, who clambered into the minivan next to Buddy as I stepped on the gas and we sped away.

As a bonus, here's Abramson hitching a ride in the back of a pick-up truck at this year's South By Southwest:

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