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New book by former New York Times editor Jill Abramson sparks online chatter

Jill Abramson
Jill Abramson(Evan Agostini/AP/file)

Not for the right reasons perhaps, a forthcoming book by former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson continues to be the subject of intense online chatter.

Two weeks after President Trump referenced on Twitter a Fox News report on the book, some journalists are criticizing “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,” claiming an early version of Abramson’s book contains multiple inaccuracies.

In a tweet last week, Danny Gold, a “PBS NewsHour” correspondent who formerly worked for Vice Media, said the book, due out Feb. 5, contains a “a straight up lie” about his reporting about the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Vice correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross also slammed Abramson, tweeting that she found “SIX errors and several false implications” in one paragraph of a galley.

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In response, Abramson, now a senior lecturer at Harvard, said her critics should wait for the book to come out before commenting. She pointed out that the pages being widely shared online are from galleys.

“The photos of pages circulating from my book are from uncorrected galleys,” Abramson tweeted, “which have a clear disclaimer saying ‘Please do not quote for publication without checking the finished book.’ ”

Abramson’s book follows two legacy organizations, the Times and The Washington Post, and two relative newcomers, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, in her examination of news-media disruption and adjustment.

Many of the Twitter accusations of problems involve present and former Vice staffers.

Duhaime-Ross notes that in the galley she is referred to as “transgender,” which the Vice correspondent says is not correct. “I told [Abramson] I’m a queer, gender-nonconforming woman,” Duhaime-Ross tweeted. “She didn’t ask for an explanation. She didn’t ask for my pronouns.”

In an electronic copy of the finished book, the error is fixed: Duhaime-Ross is referred to as a “gender-nonconforming woman.” Also in the galley, Abramson mistakenly writes that the 2017 white supremacist rally was held in Charlottesville, N.C. In the finished book, the correct location — Charlottesville, Va. — is included.

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In the case of Gold, though, the galley and the finished book remain the same. Abramson writes that a Vice correspondent, whom she doesn’t name, “wore no protective clothing. In contrast, Times correspondents followed the same protocol as doctors (one reporter was herself a doctor), covering every inch of their bodies with protective clothing.”

In his tweet, Gold said he was the Vice correspondent and “like every other reporter there, i was told by experts not to walk around with a PPE unless you were in the ICU. I also worked alongside Times reporters, who a. Gave me that advice and b. Did the same.”

Abramson’s book got some free publicity from Trump a few weeks ago when the president mentioned it in a tweet: “Former [New York Times] editor Jill Abramson rips paper’s ‘unmistakably anti-Trump bias,’ ” he tweeted, alluding to a story by Fox analyst Howard Kurtz that highlighted criticisms on the newspaper in the book. “Ms. Abramson is 100% correct. Horrible and totally dishonest reporting on almost everything they write. Hence the term Fake News, Enemy of the People, and Opposition Party!”

Abramson responded to the president with a tweet of her own: “Anyone who reads my book, Merchants of Truth, will find I revere @nytimes and praise its tough coverage of you.”

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Abramson will discuss her book at the Harvard Book Store Feb. 19.


Mark Shanahan can be reached at Shanahan@Globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan