June 14, 2014

Jill Abramson — the executive editor axed by the NYT — finds other work, teaching "narrative nonfiction" at Harvard.

Here's the way the NYT reports it, decorously... fit-to-print-ishly.
Harvard said in a statement that Ms. Abramson would be a visiting lecturer in the Department of English for the 2014-15 academic year and would teach in the fall and spring semesters. In the statement, Ms. Abramson said she was “honored and excited.”

Narrative nonfiction, she said, “is more important than ever. Its traditions and how it is changing in the digital transition are fascinating areas of study.”
What is the evidence that Abramson should be teaching writing at the highest level? Is she going to teach the brainy, aspiring kids to use words like "important" and "fascinating" as they tell their stories of things that are actually happening in the real world?

I'd like to see the reading list. There's lots of great narrative nonfiction out there. Read The New Yorker. I assume there's something to be gained from studying the writing techniques, and someone with high-level editing experience might be a good guide through the literature. There are careers in this kind of writing, and understanding the point of view of a NYT executive editor would be helpful.

You might scoff: a fired NYT executive editor.

But she wasn't fired for bad editing. She was fired for being a bitch "her management style."

26 comments:

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"You might scoff:"

But in fact I might not.

RonF said...

How can someone responsible for the content of the New York Times
be considered an expert on non-fiction?

Rob said...

The New York Times was just a bit too decorous. It edited her quotation in the Harvard press release to omit a single word. What was that word? Journalism. Here's what she said, according to the press release: "“Narrative non-fiction journalism is more important than ever."

Back in the day, all journalism was supposed to be non-fiction.

The Drill SGT said...

you missed the earlier version that Taranto's folks caught:

"Narrative nonfiction journalism is more important than ever. Its traditions and how it is changing in the digital transition are fascinating areas of study.”

This leads me to conclude a few things.

1. If there is "Narrative nonfiction journalism", that implies that Jill thinks there is "Narrative fictional journalism". Says a lot about both Jill and the NYT.

2. Quotes in the NYT are flexible and made up or

3. The NYT allows some preferred subjects of its articles to rewrite their quotes to adjust the meme.

PS: I also note that dumb tattoo's of a regrettable nature are not restricted to blue collar males.

Ms. Abramson, a 1976 Harvard College graduate, has a tattoo featuring the school’s H logo, as well as a tattoo of the T from the nameplate of The New York Times.

David said...

Dragging the river for the murder weapon. It's an old story.

David said...

What's the scope, dope? The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire is narrative non fiction. Just journalistic narrative non fiction?

Is she going to teach them how to write? Or build a course around reading works of narrative non fiction and let the writing sink in as a side effect?

Apart from celebrity, her qualifications may be a little thin. However, the best teacher I had as an undergraduate was Douglas Cater, a journalist with no advanced degrees. If she is as demanding with the students as she reputedly was with her staff, it could be a great course.

Of course Cater was not a celebrity. We had wonderful small seminars. They will probably fill a lecture hall for Jill.

lemondog said...

How ‘bout presenting facts. How ‘bout unbiased investigative reporting. How ‘bout the t,t,t,t toot,...err... tr, tr, tr, ... um,... TRUTH (pheww!)

William said...

I see where Chelsea Clinton was being paid $600,000 per year by NBC for her journalistic, non fiction narratives. That's far more than either Ms. Abramson or her male competitor made. So salary differentials are not wholly gender based. You have to factor in experience and stage presence. Perhaps if the gig at Harvard doesn't work out, Jill can sign on to be Chelsea's assistant. I'm sure under Chelsea's purposeful direction Jill could continue to find many useful non fiction narratives in the raw data of life. Jill needs a woman's hand to guide her, and who better than Chelsea.

The Crack Emcee said...

I like the very idea that I - me - I was supposed to be concerned for her.

This place is so outrageously fucked up - and audaciously racist - it'd be comical if it wasn't so tragic,...

The Crack Emcee said...

She "finds other work" weeks after being FIRED.

I've been out of work for months after an injury, have excellent references, and a work ethic that makes former employers rave.

What a country,...

From Inwood said...

But what may be the real problem here to those who have to be dragged kicking & screaming into the 21st century is that FOX News, Talk Radio, & Rightwing Blogs are reporting what has occurred & questioning what cannot be proven to have occurred, things that the NYT & the rest of the Lamestream Media might, say, prefer to hide.

It would be amusing if it were not so serious when would-be serious people respond immediately & in lockstep that “rightwingnutjob” Blogs are déclassé, “Hate” Radio guys are entertainers (that is when they’re not “racists”) & “FAUX” is not a “real” News Channel.

And if they feel it necessary or appropriate, these deniers respond further that whatever FOX News, Talk Radio, & Rightwing Blogs are claiming to have occurred never occurred (fiction)or if it did it occur, it didn’t actually, you know, occur as FOX News, Talk Radio, & Rightwing Blogs said that it had occurred (fictionalized), or it wasn’t as serious as FOX News, Talk Radio, & Rightwing Blogs made it sound to their déclassé audiences (escape literature), or it was more nuanced than FOX News, Talk Radio, & Rightwing Blogs, being mere superficial entertainers, not like us my dears, understood (lack of narrative skills, I guess).

In any event, someone has noted that in the minds of these deniers, the NYT is the paper of record because it’s always able to interpret what actually occurred in order to be able to show the deeper truth of the meaning of it all. Apparently a talent not to be minimized.

From Inwood said...

Prof A

Have you thought of entitling your Con Law course: "Narrative Nonfiction Analysis of The Constitution?"

"Narrative non-fiction constitutional analysis (by a non-B***h) is more important than ever."

richard mcenroe said...

Journalist are the single greatest cause of decay in the English language. The level of "narrative nonfiction" in virtually any newspaper you care to read is simply appalling.

Journalism majors are drawn from a pool of students only slightly more accomplished than education majors, who are a group the bottom of the collegiate barrel barring the football team. They corrupt words, phrases and concepts out of sheer ignorance when they aren't doing it out of partisan malice...

Okay, she IS qualified to teach it.

richard mcenroe said...

The web comic artist Phil Foglio once had a reporter character indignantly deny she was in the news business— "I publish journalism-like infotainment art product!"

traditionalguy said...

A news paper is raw history so it must tell a story about what happened. They try to keep the names and places straight so that the story can pass for non-fiction.

The concept that there exists a pure gold standard non-fiction story somewhere out there is behind the famous query, " What is truth."

30yearProf said...

"Narrative NON-fiction" is that a journalistic term of art for falsehoods disguised as "facts."

Ah, A J-School course in lying by omission rather than by misrepresentation. It's so much more effective to just leave the truth out of the story.

EDH said...

Ms. Abramson, a 1976 Harvard College graduate, has a tattoo featuring the school’s H logo, as well as a tattoo of the T from the nameplate of The New York Times.

She's halfway to a "HATE" tattoo.

CWJ said...

I don't really care, but of course she found work. The self apointed elite always do.

How long before she points out to Harvard that Chelsea Clinton is being paid $600k a year by NBC?

Gene said...

Some people here are letting their disdain for Jill Abramson bleed into disdain for narrative non-fiction. It's an ancient and honorable story-telling tradition whose roots go back hundreds of thousands of years to the time when men sat around campfires at night recasting the day's hunt (or battle) into an epic tale of morality and justice.

You may say such stories are false because they imply there is a moral order to the universe (and you may be right) but such stories have great shelf-life and long lasting appeal, compared to, say those then earth-shaking stories that announced the sinking of the Titanic or the assassination of JFK.

Those stories (precisely for the reason that they were not told as narrative non-fiction) are virtually unreadable today, whereas books like Into Thin Air, The Perfect Storm, The Hot Zone, Down and & Out in Paris and London, and In Cold Blood are still read with deep pleasure many decades later.

Why? They tell stories, not just recount events.

Luis Alegria said...

Samuel Elliot Morison
Master of narrative nonfiction.
United States Naval Operation in World War II is a masterpiece of American literature. Ignored by the mis-educated of course.
Its an education in the relation of complex events.

Luis Alegria said...

Also, one take on Abrahamson is that she was removed because she was threatening to stray from the pro-gov reservation, having expressed various criticisms of the administration earlier this year.

CWJ said...

Gene wrote -

"Some people here are letting their disdain for Jill Abramson bleed into disdain for narrative non-fiction."

Not at all. That's a strawman covering for your desire to make the comment you made. You completely ignore the deleted word "journalism" which appears the focus of the disdain you perceive.

Now that said, you lost me when you threw in "Into Thin Air." Yes its a great read, but it is both unsustainable accusation and apology for the author's shortcomings. Are you saying they and narrative non-fiction are one and the same?

Zach said...

I would simply like to observe that getting a Harvard tattoo is the most pathetic thing in the world.

In fact, the Harvard tattoo and the Harvard lectureship have a weird resonance, don't they? Maybe she's a good editor, maybe she's a bad editor, but if you close your eyes and yell HARVARD loudly enough, it doesn't really matter.

Gene said...

"You completely ignore the deleted word "journalism" which appears the focus of the disdain you perceive."

There is no difference between narrative non-fiction and narrative non-fiction journalism. The former just doesn't use a redundant word.

The Drill SGT said...

Gene said...
There is no difference between narrative non-fiction and narrative non-fiction journalism. The former just doesn't use a redundant word.


Gene,

let me pose the same thought from yesterday in the format of your question:

Gene said...
"You completely ignore the deleted word "journalism" which appears the focus of the disdain you perceive."

Is there is no difference between narrative non-fiction journalism and narrative journalism?

The later just doesn't use a redundant word.

Or is there narrative fictional journalism?

Gene said...

Drill SGT: I did not write the following. It was someone else responding to something I had written: "You completely ignore the deleted word "journalism" which appears the focus of the disdain you perceive."

Here's what I wrote. Narrative non-fiction (writing) and narrative non-fiction journalism are the same. They both refer to exactly the same thing.

Both mean telling true stories (stories consisting of verifiable facts) in a dramatic narrative form using the tools of fiction--scenes, dialogue, character development, but without making anything up.

In narrative non-fiction everything is true (or at least everything would be if some less than scrupulous writers didn't compress timelines, use composite characters, or simply make up scenes and quotes).