Margaret Sullivan has a message for journalists heading into 2024 – Vanity Fair | Team Cansler

It was the point of the evening for audience questions. Molly Jong Fastinterviews her good friend and fellow journalist Margaret SullivanShe scrolled through her phone. Earlier, Jong-Fast instructed those who participated in the discussion to tweet her after learning that Cooper Union had not built a question-and-answer component into the event. Now, reading a question someone had asked on Twitter, she said: “The New York Times has evolved into a much stronger newsroom over the past 10 years: 2,000 journalists, talent, more global reach, many, many more offices…”

“Who is this?” Sullivan cut him off with a skeptical smile. The audience and Jong-Fast laughed. Then Sullivan joked, “Signed, AG Sulzberger.

The former public editor of the Times took to the stage at Cooper Union on Tuesday to talk about her new book. Newsroom confidential, which she has described as a memoir manifesto about her decades in journalism. Her career began as a Watergate-loving teenager who landed an internship at her local newspaper, The Buffalo News, of which she eventually became the editor-in-chief (the first woman to hold that role). Then she went to Timeswhere she, as public editor (also the first woman to hold that role), served as internal critic, a job Sullivan likened Tuesday to that of “an inspector general of a federal agency” (and that the Timesand others who would later eliminate).

Her last newspaper perch was on the Washington Postwhere she wrote a media column—a position, Sullivan writes in her book, won her over Martin Baron (and later his imprint) in the spirit of the late David Carr. Sullivan spoke Tuesday about all of those previous roles, as well as the usefulness of knowing what you want. “As women, we feel like we should pretend not to be ambitious,” Sullivan said. “I tend to promote jobs that I wanted and I’m not ashamed of it,” she said.

Prior to the question-and-answer portion, the conversation focused primarily on Sullivan’s experience as a public editor, which, as it often involved criticism of her peers, was inherently uncomfortable. “Sometimes I’d call my eldest brother and say, Wow, everyone here is so mad at me. That’s awful‘ Sullivan recalled. “And he would say You know, if everyone really liked you, you wouldn’t be doing the job very well.” Then-Verlag Arthur Sulzberger Jr.However, he said he was “pretty perfect as a nominal boss because he gave me complete independence” and “supported the role,” adding, “He wanted the public editor to be tough.” (In her book, Sullivan recalls that Sulzberger told her , as she prepared to leave in 2016, even asking to stay through the presidential election and into early 2017 because “he felt it was important to have an experienced editor at such a critical time. ) Sulzberger would step down in 2017, since his son takes over the company.

Asked what she thinks of it Times Today Sullivan said, “I admire a lot of the journalism at the Times, and it’s an “amazing institution”, but also a “flawed one”. “It’s made up of people and it gets it wrong sometimes,” Sullivan said. “There’s something about it that might be a little resistant to criticism. So there’s not a lot of self-correction built in, which is why the public editor job is important.”

Sullivan, “the least self-promoting person in America” ​​according to Jong-Fast, seemed most comfortable during the question-and-answer section (which reminded me of how she recalls in the book that she spent a few weeks needed “to start taking my steps”. post, with a longtime reader emailing her: “You used to be funny. You’re not funny anymore”). At one point, someone asked if she could start writing her media column again. “I got a bit burned out, I have to say,” Sullivan said, recalling the six years she spent there post mainly focused on two major issues: donald trumpand the demise of local news, none of which was “particularly cheerful.”

“It was exhausting and it was exhausting. So I thought it might be good to do something different for a while, like write a crime series,” she said, about a fired local news reporter who uses her investigative reporter skills to solve crimes. (Sullivan mentioned this idea to me when I was interviewing her on the way out post in August, when she announced plans to focus on teaching journalism at Duke University and pursuing book projects.) “I’ve actually started writing this, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it,” Sullivan told the audience on Tuesday and turned back to the question . “I mean, I don’t know. I think I paid my dues. I’ve been in journalism for 40 years, and if I want to try something different for a while — I mean, I’m sorry person on Twitter.”

Tuesday’s discussion took place in the Great Hall of the Cooper Union. A representative escorted me to my seat and told me that Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had spoken here, so they were particularly pleased that Sullivan was speaking about democracy. Lack of trust in the press is a recurring theme Newsroom confidential, and something Sullivan has written extensively about. Last week, she urged journalists that if Trump runs again, “it pays to remember the lessons we’ve learned — and to commit to the principle that old-style journalism will no longer be used when it comes to talking about politicians.” reports that are essentially anti-democracy suffice.”

In the last few minutes, Jong-Fast asked her what the media could do better in 2024. “I want all journalists to be very conscious about this moment that we’re in in history” with “democracy on the brink,” Sullivan said, arguing against clickbait or things that “feed the outrage machine” and instead for community journalism. “Don’t sleep at the counter.”

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