Jill Abramson as Howell Raines, Maureen Dowd as Washington Bureau Chief?

An anonymous Times editor compares Abramson's management style to notoriously alienating former executive editor Howell Raines. Plus, speculation on Jill Abramson's choice for Washington bureau chief, feminist columnist and fellow Anita Hill supporter Maureen Dowd.
Ominous speculation from Women's Wear Daily (which has surprisingly robust media reporting) about the management style of Jill Abramson, the Times' executive editor in waiting - she reminds one anonymous senior editor of the notorious Howell Raines!

Abramson also told an interviewer she was most proud of providing a "sceptical take on the motivations of" Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton. And could liberal feminist columnist and Abramson friend Maureen Dowd become the next Washington bureau chief?

Raines served as executive editor from September 2001 to June 2003, alienating the newsroom with his hard-driving philosophy and left without support after it was revealed he had protected from criticism Jayson Blair, who it turned out had filed hundreds of hoax stories, inventing quotes and datelines. From WWD:

"With Jill, it's more about her," said one senior editor at the Times, who requested anonymity. "When Bill is in the room, he sits there quietly. He doesn't inject himself in the conversation, whereas Jill talks about herself or people that she knows. She's just a much bigger presence in a meeting."

The source said that Abramson is "a lot more like Howell Raines," the strong-willed executive editor before Keller who was pushed out of the paper after the Jayson Blair scandal (the irony in that, of course, is that Abramson and Raines famously feuded when he ran the paper and she ran the Washington bureau)....But several sources said that there is one intriguing rumor going around the building: That Abramson is considering tapping her best friend at the paper, Maureen Dowd, to run the bureau. The two have known each other since covering the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings and "when we heard the word penis in the very stately Senate caucus room, our eyes locked" and a friendship was born, Abramson said at The TimesCenter two years ago. Dowd does make some sense since she has been writing her column for 16 years - a long time - and she could easily slip into a role not unlike the late R.W. Apple when he ran the bureau. She would be plugged in, she could have an extensive TV role and someone else worry about managing the bureau. Abramson told WWD last week that the decision would come "soonish."

It does make sense. Dowd's coverage of the Thomas hearings was quite supportive of Hill and hostile toward Thomas's Republican defenders, which dovetails perfectly with Abramson's hostility toward Thomas, which appeared in book form as 1994's "Strange Justice."

"Jill has always been more tense than Bill and that makes other people tense," said the senior newsroom source. "She needs to rise above that a bit and have the calmness of a great leader. But she has the job. There's nothing else to prove. She can relax a little now that she's in the throne."

Ed Pilkington of London's Guardian newspaper talked to Abramson in her Times office and extracted a liberal tidbit.

Her track record includes stints at investigative reporting, a skill that proved useful during the recent run of WikiLeaks disclosures, in which she played no small part. Of all the investigative work she's done, though, she is proudest of the inquiry she led into the independent counsel Ken Starr at the time of the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

"We had a sceptical take on the motivations of [Starr], and I'm really proud that we did that because every one else was feeding off of tips from the independent counsel."

The paper's editorial page indeed had a harshly "skeptical" attitude toward Starr's investigation of Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, calling Starr a "narcissistic legal crank" in a February 2, 1999 editorial, after the Times published a leak outlining indictment research from Starr's office.

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