Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden helped The New York Times “keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters,” says Jill Abramson, the woman who has the final say on what constitutes “all the news that’s fit to print.”
As executive editor of the Times — the first woman to hold what has been one of the most influential positions in American journalism — Abramson sets the agenda. We talk to her about what she calls the “most secretive White House” she has covered as well as the newspaper’s “seriously flawed” coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War, which happened during her watch as Washington bureau chief. John Seigenthaler also asks Abramson about the future of print newspapers and about accusations that the Times is too far left.
John Seigenthaler: Let me dive right into the news and a little bit about the NSA and Edward Snowden. Daniel Ellsberg was quoted recently as saying that Edward Snowden was his hero. Do you see Snowden as a hero or a traitor?
Jill Abramson: I see him as a very good source. We have published many of the NSA and GCHQ (British intelligence) documents that came from Snowden. And so I view him, as I did Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as a very good source of extremely newsworthy information.
Edward Snowden did help The New York Times keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters…
John Seigenthaler: Let me move on to another topic in the Obama administration. How would you grade this administration, compared to others, when it comes to its relationship with the media?
Jill Abramson: Well, I would slightly like to interpret the question as “How secretive is this White House?” which I think is the most important question. I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term.
I dealt directly with the Bush White House when they had concerns that stories we were about to run put the national security under threat. But, you know, they were not pursuing criminal leak investigations. The Obama administration has had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history. It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with.
And do you think this comes directly from the president?
I would think that it would have to…
John Seigenthaler: Everybody has an opinion of The New York Times, so let’s talk about some opinions of the Times. And in particular, The New York Times is often labeled as left-wing, liberal. How do you respond to that?
Jill Abramson: I respond to it by saying I think The New York Times represents a kind of cosmopolitan outlook towards the world and to this country and this city that may strike, you know, some readers as liberal because we have, you know, paid a lot of attention to stories like gay marriage, but these are newsworthy currents in our society.
But it’s not liberal in the sense of being doctrinaire or tied to the Democratic Party in any way. You know, I’ve run many investigative stories and political stories that have made liberal political figures furious.
Folks confuse editorial policy with journalism and reporting. A mistake falling in the category of ignorance – and not limited to the United States.
This is just a portion of the interview appearing at america.aljazeera.com…The full interview will be on AlJazeera America TV, Sunday evening at 7pm ET/4pm PT.