Abramson Announces Journalism Start-up

By Meggie Quackenbush
BU News Service

Just months since her highly-publicized departure from the New York Times, Jill Abramson is making her return to journalism.

In front of a packed crowd at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center last night, the former executive editor of the Times announced last night that she will be launching a startup news organization with Steve Brill, founder of CourtTV and 2014 recipient of the National Magazine Award.

“It’s still early days. Both Steve and I are very excited about this,” Abramson said of her new project.

While she was tight-lipped about details, Abramson noted that rather than build a complete news site, the project will focus on ambitious, stand-alone written pieces that hit hard–pieces she called “killer journalism.” She said she will function as recruiter and editor for the new project, and hopes to offer new jobs and competitive pay to journalists.

Abramson dropped the news during a one-on-one talk with former colleague David Carr, the New York Times media and culture critic and current BU College of Communication Andrew R. Lack Professor. The discussion, “Fast Forward: David Carr with Jill Abramson,” was presented by WBUR in partnership with the BU College of Communication.

Carr and Abramson’s lively discussion addressed some of the challenges reporters face today when breaking into the industry amidst a rapidly evolving media landscape, and reflected on what’s next for journalists.

While Carr sheepishly joked that he’s “gotten out of the future business,” his vision of the fate of print journalism is bleak: “ten years from now, print will be a luxury artifact,” he said to WBUR’s Jeremy Hobson, the host of the evening. Carr pointed to the web as a stronger business model for both emerging and established news organizations, predicting print journalism will soon be worn as “intellectual jewelry” rather than function as the medium of the masses.

The two former colleagues agreed that thanks to digital journalism and social media, the playing field for news organization has been leveled. While Carr noted that “the insurgent media and the established media are marching towards each other,” Abramson said that during her time as editor of the Times, she ceased to think of competition as originating in other traditional newsrooms. Rivals increasingly came from news organizations with broad reach on the web and in social media, she said.

Both Carr and Abramson professed confidence in the new generation of journalism students and reporters driving these emerging news organizations, and trust in their ability to compete with and challenge prominent, established institutions. The level of seriousness shown by these students is “stunning,” according to Carr.

For him, “worrying about this next generation is a waste of time; they’ve got it going on.”

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(Best viewed full screen.) (Video by BU News Service reporter Rebecca Sananes.)

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