tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera February 5, 2014 3:00pm-3:31pm EST
sick. king is openly gay and russia passed a law banning gay propaganda. al jazeera news is next. edward snowden did help the "new york times" keep the public informed on what i consider to be very important matters. >> i would say it is the most secretive white house that i have ever been involved in covering. >> during the run-up to the iraq war, abramson was the d.c. bureau chief for the paper,
which she says ransom seriously flawed stories. >> we were, i think, not diligent enough. >> i talk to her about the future of the paper and about accusations that the paper is too far left. welcome to "talk to al jazeera," jill. >> thanks so much, john. >> tell us what it's like to be the editor of "the new york times" for the last couple of years. did you dream about this? >> it's something i have dreamed about since i've been a professional journalist. i never expected that i would actually have this job, but some part of me always, yes, certainly dreamed of working for "the new york times." i grew up here in manhattan. my family actually had two home delivery subscriptions to ""the times"," because my mother was a
passionate puzzler, but she couldn't stand to have the puzzle ripped out. she didn't want anyone to touch the section the puzzle was in. my father had to have his own "new york times." >> let me dive right into the news, then, and talk a little bit about the nsa and edward snowden. danielle ellsburg was quoted as say he was a hero. do you see him as a hero or traitor? >> i see him as a very good source. we have published many of the nsa and gchq documents that came from snow den, and so i view him as i did julian assaunge and wikileaks. as a good source.
>> some things were published and some weren't. how do you make those decisions? >> we make those decisions trying to apply common sense balancing test where we respectively listen to concerns of the u.s. government that publishing a story will harm international security. we balance those concerns against the importance and newsworthiness of the investigation and our primary duty, which is to keep the public informed. >> this was a big story. were you personally involved? >> i was personally involved in the snowden material, and with dean bakai, "the times" fantastic editoring manager. "the guardian" were partners in the reporting off of the nsa material.
we personally went and pain-stakingly made preparations about how we would handle the material. >> is that unusual? >> unusual for the executive editor to be involved? >> yeah. >> not when something is -- >> this big? >> where the reputation of "the times" could be at stake. there aren't that many stories of that nature, but when they are it's usual for the top editors to be directly involved. >> is it comparable to the pentagon papers? >> it's hard to say. i mean, the pentagon papers and in that situation, obviously, daniel elsburg was the source for that material coming out of the pentagon. that material exposed really terrible, terrible official lies but the u.s. government.
lies about the progress of the vietnam war, and that made that material so consequenceal because of that. in this case the material has, you know, provided a window onto like the scale of eavesdropping and all kinds of troubling things. certainly, some misstatements by officials, but i'm not sure they've exposed a wholesale cover-up and public lying over years and years the way the pentagon papers did. >> on the editorial page, "the times" editorialized saying that edward snowden should be considered for amnesty. you get involved with the editorials? >> i don't. i have no involvement. >> so you don't write editorials
ever? >> i don't. i don't even know what the editorials are going to be the next day. there's a pretty strict -- we call it the chinese wall here between the opinion side of "the times" and the news side, and i'm on the news side. >> so do you agree or disagree with the editorial's opinion when it comes to edward snowden and amnesty, or do you have an opinion? >> i don't have an opinion. i value the fact that by doing what he did, edward snowden did help "the new york times" keep the public informed on what i consider to be very important matters. >> we can 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? >> 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. that includes -- i spent 22 years of my career in washington and covered presidents from president reagan on up through now. i was washington bureau chief of "the times" during george w. bush's first term. that was -- you know, they kept a fairly tight lid on things. 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. >> you think this comes directly from the president? >> i would think that it would have to. i don't know that, but certainly enough attention has been focused on this issue that if he departed from the policies of his government, i think we'd know that at this point. >> so it makes it more difficult for "the new york times" to do its job in your opinion? >> absolutely it does. in the case of the white house, it does. in the case of specific journalists, i would talk for a minute about jim risen, who is
one of my valued colleagues. in 2005 he is the reporter who, along with eric, broke the story about the nsa's warrantless eavesdropping, which was in a way the first view we had into the world of the nsa's collection of data and communications. he's a fantastic reporter, and he has had this leak investigation hanging over his head for years now. you know, it makes -- you know, it's not like national security sources come easy to any reporters in washington. >> so let's go back to the administration, if we can. you were in washington during at least the first term of george w. bush. >> yeah. >> was the media or "the new york times" misled by the burks when -- bush administration when it came to the iraq war?
>> yes, we were. >> were we fooled? >> we were, i think, not diligent enough. i don't know if we were purposefully fooled. i think there was a terrible echo chamber where unreliable iraqi defectors were speaking both to members of the media and to intelligence officials and high officials in the bush administration, and that an echo effect took hold where like all the information was coming from one set of bad sources. it seems that multiple sources were confirming the information, and that created like a kind of perfect storm. i'm not excusing it at all. i'm not excusing "the times'" running some very seriously flawed stories.
>> judy miller? >> she was not alone. it was not only judy miller. there were, ir think, 10 or 12 stories that we ended up in an editor's note saying we had, you know, concerns about. so i'm not, you know, minimizing that at all. you know, i don't think we know for certain if there was a purposeful let's, you know, fool everyone scheme hatched inside the bush white house. there's a serious lack of diligence and an unwillingness, i think, because the prevailing view in washington was that there was intelligence supporting the idea that saddam hussein had an active wmd program. there were dissenters inside the government. there were analysts at the cia
who thought this is flimsy, flimsy evidence to support that. it's kind of journalists were not listening as closely to them or trying hard enough to find those sources. instead, you know, in a boom effect, we're carrying these baseless stories from other sources. it's a bad moment both for the government and for journalism. >> coming up on "talk to al jazeera," i ask jill what she says to the critics that say "the new york times" is just too liberal. >> al jazeera america is a straight-forward news channel.
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resources behind every story. >> it is a scene of utter devastation. >> and follow it no matter where it leads - all the way to you. al jazeera america, take a new look at news. i'm john siegen that willer. welcome to al jazeera. i'm talking to jill abramson. i wake up in the morning, and i reach over to the night table and pick up my iphone and i call up "the new york times" app rather than walk outside and pick up the newspaper itself, which is sitting there, which
often doesn't get read. i mean, is that something that happens to you? >> i actually am a multi-platform reader. it depends on where and when i am, but i still get immense pleasure out of reading the print newspaper. >> i do, too. >> i spend at least an hour every morning actually -- even though i've read, i mean, we published a lot of the articles that are in the paper on our website, and they've been published on our apps, too. but i still love, you know, just in some ways the serendipity seeing a story inside one of the sections i didn't know about before. you find yourself reading it. you don't know quite why, but it's sort of a joyous experience. >> we share that love of print. >> we're both of a certain age. >> we are of a certain age, shall we say. >> we are. my father was in the newspaper
business, and i love the print. honestly, going forward do you see print in the future of "the times"? >> i think in terms of the future the next, let's say, 20 years i think that we're going to be publishing digitally, and i think there still is going to be an audience for the print paper. i really do. we have over 800,000 home delivery subscribers who have taken the paper from two years or more to very loyal base of readers. the newspaper is profitable still, and that doesn't mean that i don't recognize the reality that our much bigger audience is a digital audience, and that is the audience where
our future growth will come from for sure. i do think at least definitely for the rest of my career i'm going to be paying lots of attention to both digital platforms and the print newspaper. >> "the times" hasn't escaped the financial business the media has faced over the last five years. we've seen in other places and organizations bureaus closed and layoffs. we've seen simply not as much money spent on investigative news. >> so why has "the times" been different? because all of those trends you just cited have not happened here. there are a couple of reasons. one is the amazing commitment of our publisher, arthur salsbergey jr. and his family that owns "the new york times" to continue to provide the world with the best quality journalism.
that is our business. >> you have to make money at it in order to keep going. >> we do make money. >> the ad model is broken, right? the model in which advertisers came in and put, you know, their mark on "the new york times" and paid a certain price, if you move to digital, they don't pay those prices, do they? >> they don't pay as much. i think a model will emerge. maybe not with the same exact returns as print advertising gets, but we are very smart. "the new york times" has now developed two revenue streams. there's ads, but because we decide to have a flexible subscription model, we're asking our heaviest readers, the people who are just, you know, every day they've got to read many stories in "the new york times," we ask
them to pay. i'm not like embarrassed that we ask people to pay. >> how is that working? >> that's working great. >> more money than you expected? >> more money than was originally forecast. >> can you talk about the relationship between "the times" and social media nowadays. >> sure. >> i can remember a time when twitter and facebook didn't have much impact on "the new york times." does it now? >> well, twitter and facebook have impact in like bringing audiences to us. if one of our stories is being mentioned prominently on either one, our traffic grows. what facebook and twitter have done is, you know, they engage readers. it's a way for readers to decide and almost publish themselves what they think is the most interesting. "the times" are anywhere in the journalistic area.
some people prefer like stories than their friends are recommending than the ones i pick for the front page of "the times," and that's show business. >> how do you pick what's on the front page? there's a picture of governor christie. did you pick that? >> i did pick that. our photo editor actually picked that particular one, but i decided in part because we didn't have the news story about christie's state of the state speech. i thought it would be good to have a picture of him at the top of the page. >> and you talk about and decide eventually you're the final word on whether or not a picture like this goes in and whether or not the nsa story runs here as opposed to below the fold? >> right, yes. that's true. >> these are tough decisions for you, yes? >> they are important decisions. you know, over time you just
kind of -- it's a gut call in a way, but it's not a random decision. often, you know, the stories that are out there reflect actual news events that have happened that day. more and more i prefer to put stories on the front page that are only in "the new york times," enterprise stories. but it's like a -- you know, it's picking the front page stories. it sounds corny to say this, but it's like being at the most buffet table in the world. is it that hard to decide between the lobster or the steak or the eclairs? not that hard really. >> is there one story, then, that you're very proud of at your tenure at "the times"? >> i'm proud of an awful lot. our journalists are the best journalists in the world. i'd say since i've been
executive editor i'm proudest of the work that david barbosa has done in the story about the wealth and influence accumulated by the ruling families in china. you know, that was meticulous investigative reporting where he went out and collected all kinds of local records and spent time in china. >> how is it to report in china? >> it's incredibly difficult. the difficulty is publishing in china, because our website is blocked in china right now. >> everybody has an opinion of "the new york times," so let's talk about some opinions of "the times." in particular, "the new york times" is often labeled as left wing and too liberal. >> yes. >> how do you respond to that? >> 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 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 doctrine air or tied to the democratic party in any way. i've run many investigative stories and political stories that have made liberal political figures furious. >> right. but they also -- the people read the editorial page, and you get blamed -- your news department gets blamed to r your editorial department says when they view whether "the times" is a liberal paper or not. >> there's no question that the editorial stance of "the new york times" is a liberal point of view. >> coming up, i ask jill what
she thinks is missing from "the times." >> start with one issue ad guests on all sides of the debate. and a host willing to ask the tough questions and you'll get... the inside story ray suarez hosts inside story weekdays at 5pm et / 2pm pt only on al jazeera america real reporting that brings you the world. >> this is a pretty dangerous trip. >> security in beirut is tight. >> more reporters. >> they don't have the resources to take the fight to al shabaab. >> more bureaus, more stories. >> this is where the typhoon came ashore. giving you a real global perspective like no other can. >> al jazeera, nairobi. >> on the turkey-syria border. >> venezuela. >> beijing. >> kabul. >> hong kong. >> ukraine. >> the artic. real reporting from around the world. this is what we do. al jazeera america.
first woman to have the job as executive editor, and it's been important to me to promote the careers of other women editors here at "the times" who i think are incredibly talented. right now the masted of "the times" is a list of top editors that run every day on the editorial page of the newspaper, it's ten people, and it's half women right now, which is, you know, a development that , you know, i feel happy about. when i got this job in 2011, it's not like i said by 2013 it's going to be half women. >> but it was a priority?
>> it was a priority to make sure that other women rose up along with me during this period. >> one african-american in that group of ten. >> that's not enough. >> not enough? >> not enough. i would like to see the progress that we've made on the gender line apply equally to ethnicity and sexuality and you name it. >> what do you think is missing now from "the new york times"? >> cartoons. >> seriously? >> i mean, well we've never had cartoons. yeah, the review section -- >> political cartoons? >> but not -- we don't have like a strip like dunesberry.
>> you'd like to see that? >> i don't know. it depends on who and what. >> we look forward to many more years of "the new york times," and we appreciate the time you've taken to speak with us. thank you very much, jill. >> thank you, john. >> reza aslan, author and scholar. he a muslim who was once an evan evangelical christian. >> when a muslim who starts to write about jesus, all of a sudden the knives comes out. >> the life and times of jesus