NEW YORK (Reuters) - As the first female executive editor of The New York Times in the newspaper’s 160-year history, Jill Abramson is at the pinnacle of the media world.
But just as she is starting in the top job at the Times, she has a new lighthearted book out about a surprising topic — her passion for her puppy.
If that seems incongruous for a woman known for serious investigative journalism and now charged with charting the future of “The Gray Lady,” Abramson believes her energy raising “Scout” is a perfect counterpoint to the rigors of journalism.
“I don’t want to say one is harder than the other. Journalism is something where experience and judgment help you do the right thing,” she told Reuters in an interview. “A puppy’s behavior is pretty unpredictable and isn’t something you can control very easily.”
Published this week, “The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout” continues Abramson’s popular 2009 online pet column about the highs and lows of the first year with her English golden retriever. It’s a book she feels almost wrote itself before she took up her executive editor job in September.
Abramson, 57, is married with two children and an author of books about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the women of Harvard Law. Her new book finds her wondering if she would be a fit dog mother again after her previous dog died.
The book mentions some work colleagues and friends who shared her canine passion — and others who expressed disappointment she agreed to write a dog column after being persuaded by its popularity.
“A part of my life is I am just a dog nut. And most of the people who work with me at the Times know that and doing the online column was fun. I did some real reporting for it,” she said. “I had never really written anything that engaged people in such a personal way.”
While some might raise their eyebrows again with her new book, she said, “I don’t worry about it too much.”
Besides some dog truths, the book offers readers a small glimpse of Abramson’s life juggling work at the Times, a home in Connecticut, an apartment in Manhattan and her two children and marriage to a Harvard classmate.
Her book offers advice about such pet issues as adoption or rescue, diets and training and is mindful of the tough economy.
“Whether you get an animal from a shelter or purchase a dog obviously deals with whether you are privileged and have money or not. I certainly don’t assume that the audience for the book has unlimited resources to throw at raising a pet. So I am aware that I am lucky,” she said.
The book also mentions several personal accidents, including Abramson learning to walk again after being hit by a truck in New York’s Times Square in 2007 to a hiking accident in 2010 which helped her bond with Scout.
“I have learned something that everybody knows inherently, and that is, life is just unpredictable,” she said.
On her new role at the Times, she said she will still bring what has always motivated her — “the thrill of a good story.”
On the future of the newspaper, which like all newspapers has struggled to overcome declining advertising revenue, she still sees reliable news having a future.
“There is a tremendous thirst in society for quality news — information that has been carefully analyzed and gracefully written and accurate,” she said. “That isn’t going to change. The more information that is out there, the thirst for reliable information gets even bigger.”
On life, her book ends with a quote by American humorist James Thurber, “Dogs are obsessed with being happy.”
“It is important to try and expose yourself in your life to things that are happy and I think there are few living beings that can make you happy quicker than a dog,” she said.
Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Mark Egan and Jill Serjeant