Jill Abramson’s Not-So-Secret Editorial Mission: More Dogs

Puppy  Labrador retriver cream in front of white background and facing the camera
Probably newsworthy. Photo: Eric Issel/www.isselee.com

As anyone with a passing familiarity with New York Times' Jill Abramson knows, she really loves dogs. And, as Intel has pointed out before, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the Times knows, she's not shy about using the pages of the paper as a venue for celebrating that love. In fact, according to Ron Howell of the Columbia Journalism Review, the number of dog-related stories in the Times has increased by 45 percent  since Abramson was promoted to executive editor last fall. Here's the breakdown:

I recently did some research in the LexisNexis database, where I found that the number of Times articles containing three or more words with “dog” as the root (such as “dog,” “dogs,” and “doggie”) increased from 230 in a four-month span from November 1, 2010 though February 28, 2011 to 337 from November 1, 2011 though February 28, 2012 (the first four months of Abramson’s time as boss) ... Fifteen years ago, before Abramson had any clout at the Times, there were only 167 references to dogs during a four-month time-frame that I checked. That indicates an increase of more than 100 percent in the attention given to dogs between then and now!

Now, we certainly don't think there's anything wrong with adopting a policy of ambitious canine coverage. But, Howell argues, one can over-prioritize dogs, especially when you're running the paper of record. (For contrast, Howell also crunched Daily News's dog numbers, which have been at about 80 per quarter for the last fifteen years.) Apparently Abramson's predecessor, Bill Keller, agreed. In her recent book, The Puppy Diaries, Abramson admits that, back when she was managing editor, Keller “told me that he noticed a sudden rise in the number of stories being pitched for the front page ... To curb the trend, he urged me to recuse myself from any discussion about a proposed story." And while it's possible he had some kind of point, it seems far more likely that he's just a crazy cat person.