In an interview with New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane, the new executive editor Jill Abramson said that the paper’s mandate is to keep the paper straight down the middle politically.
BRISBANE: The legendary Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal once told a colleague he felt the need to steer The Times to the right to compensate for the leftward political leanings of some staff. Will you do that?
ABRAMSON: I sometimes try not only to remind myself but my colleagues that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of America. And I am pretty scrupulous about when we apply our investigative firepower to politicians that we not do it in a way that favors one way of thinking or one party over the other. I think the mandate is to keep the paper straight, but I don’t think you have to lean right to do that.
Rosenthal, who ran the Times’ news operations from 1969-1986, was a liberal who was honest enough to admit that the paper veered left and needed some rightward tilt to compensate. Needless to say, he rarely succeeded.
Abramson assumed her new post on Tuesday so it’s far too early to tell if she will actually try to adhere to the mandate, as she put it, to “keep the paper straight.” But if history is any guide, she too will fail.