That’s certainly the case with Jill Abramson’s suggestion on Thursday that her elevation to the position of executive editor at The New York Times amounted to a transfiguration and apotheosis, as well as the sacred fulfillment of the family faith that guided her childhood. Not only did she compare her new appointment to “ascending to Valhalla,” but in the original versions of a Times report by Jeremy W. Peters, she flatly declared: “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.”
By the end of the day, someone toned down this touching testament of faith, suggesting merely that the new position represented “the honor of my life” for “someone who read the Times as a young girl growing up in New York ‘We are held together by our passion for our work, our friendship and our deep belief in the mission and indispensability of The Times,’ she said. ‘I look forward to working with all of you to seize our future. In this thrilling and challenging transition, we will cross to safety together.’”
And what will they cross, exactly? The Red Sea?
Will Jill Abramson wield a miraculous staff to part the surging waters more effectively than did her predecessors Bill Keller and Howell Raines?
Even though specific references to a “substitute religion” ultimately disappeared from the Times website, much of the faith-based rhetoric remained. Whenever people use words like “mission” and “indispensability” to describe their work it indicates they view their positions as sacred vocations, not mere jobs.
So why, in that context, would Abramson and her associates feel the need to remove the explicit revelation that she grew up in a home in which the Times had replaced the Bible? One can assume that they attempted to edit those words because they provided inadvertent support to three of the most persistent criticisms of America’s Journal of Record.