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New York Times editor: social media was biggest difference between Boston and 9/11

Jeff John Roberts

When bombs in Boston went off last month, Jill Abramson went in minutes from being a “joyous executive editor” at a ceremony celebrating the New York Times‘ recent Pulitzer Prize wins to overseeing a major story.

Abramson is familiar with working on major news events, including 9/11, but said her primary concerns were different this time.

“In Boston, what was first and foremost was making sure our standards were understood,” said Abramson, who recounted the event at conference hosted by Wired Business on Tuesday in New York City.

The Times‘ chief explained that, for major stories in the past, the only focus was the next day’s paper. Now, Abramson said, she was pre-occupied with ensuring that no one at the paper seized on one of the many thinly-sourced rumors flying  around on social media.

Abramson, speaking with Wired Editor in Chief, Scott Dedich, also addressed other recent trends in media, including a popular marketing trend.

“Native advertising seems to be for the conference set. It’s the buzz word of 2013,” she said, pouring cold water on a term popularized by BuzzFeed and others.

Abramson also spoke of the “months and months and months” of effort that went into producing the Times’ Pulizter-winning multi-media story, Snow Fall, though didn’t address how the paper would fund such projects in the future. She did note, though, that technical virtuosity wasn’t enough for great journalism.

“I think that what a new editor needs first and foremost, and this sounds old-fashioned, is that gut sense of what’s a great NYT story.”

The discussion didn’t touch on a widely-panned Politico report that Abramson was losing the newsroom, but did address her role as first female editor in chief of the Times. She said that there was no point being the first woman in anything if there wasn’t going to be a second, but said she was pleased with overall gender at the Times.

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