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New York Times editor unsure if reporters are print or digital – and that’s a good thing

Jeff John Roberts

The executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, does not fetishize print newspapers and says the Times’ editorial integrity is as strong as ever. Her remarks suggested that, despite financial hiccups and a mini-contretemps over a new CEO, the celebrated publication’s day to day operations are in good hands.

Abramson, who has been in the job for a year, made the remarks during a free-wheeling interview with Business Insider’s Henry Blodget before a crowd of media and tech types Tuesday in New York. She offered a frank and confident appraisal of the Times and the evolving business of news.

In response to a question about how the Times divides up the newsroom between print and digital reporters, Abramson says most staff no longer fit into one category or the other. She does not oversee “the paper” or “the web” but rather a global product she calls simply “the new report.”

“There was too much focus in the past on the print product,” said Abramson. “[We] now make sure energy is 24/7 and not focused on newspaper deadlines and rhythms.”

This is a relief to hear because, from a business perspective, the Times has recently been relying on price hikes to its print paper to make up for cratering ad revenue. The price increases, however, provide at best a medium-term solution. Abramson acknowledged as much, noting that when she taught journalism classes at Yale, none of her students read paper newspapers.

Abramson’s pragmatism improves the Times’ chances of developing the right long-term digital strategy which, for now, relies heavily on an imperfect paywall model. Her presence may also help the Times’ preserve its role as a news authority at a time when many once-mighty news brands are rapidly waning.

The interview also provided some personal color. Abramson, who grew up on New York’s upper west side with parents who had two NYT subscriptions, said she is regularly accosted by fellow dog walkers over the Times’ Sunday Review.

Abramson spoke at Business Insider’s Ignition 2012.

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