What happened between 2011 and 2014, as Sulzberger saw and explained it, was that Abramson became slowly alienated from her masthead colleagues. (Masthead editors are the most senior editors under the executive editor.) When I pointed out that other executive editors of the Timeshad possessed the very traits that some have attributed to Abramson—that she could be aloof or autocratic—he countered that times had changed. Sure, he said, Abe Rosenthal, who edited the Times through the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, was famously difficult. Rosenthal could also focus simply on gathering and publishing the news. But an editor today, Sulzberger said, has to have a different set of skills. Today’s editor has to have stellar journalistic skills “as well as managerial skills to be figuring out how to get the data to help us deliver news in a digital age.” During Rosenthal’s reign, “You could make it work. That’s no longer true. The standard has to be different.”
Rosenthal literally made an enemies list and posted it on the newsroom wall. There is nothing about the non-digital age that would make that okay (for what it’s worth, if I did that every time I wanted to the thing would be 762 pages long) back then and not okay now.
I feel like if we replaced all thinking about journalism with a parrot that just yelled “DIGITAL PARADIGM! DIGITAL PARADIGM!” we’d have pretty much the same conversations we’re having now.
The Internet is not an all-access pass to suck at your job.