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The Abramson Firing

[ 143 ] May 16, 2014 |

There has been a lot of good writing on it; see Friedman, Traister, Echidne, Khazan, Dean.

I particularly wanted to recommend Michelle Goldberg’s piece. It makes several points I agree with that I haven’t seen being made elsewhere. First of all, to the extent that Abramson was unwilling to embrace the “have reporters talk on video about pieces you could read in two minutes” model of journamalism, she was on the side of the angels. And I especially endorse this:

And then there’s the investigation into Thompson’s history at BBC. “After Thompson had been hired for the job but before he’d started, Abramson sent Matthew Purdy, a hard-charging investigative reporter, to London to examine Thompson’s role in the Jimmy Savile scandal at the BBC,” writes Sherman. “Abramson’s relationship with the two executives never recovered. ‘Mark Thompson was fucking pissed,’ a source explained. ‘He was really angry with the Purdy stuff.’ So was Sulzberger. ‘He was livid, in a very passive-aggressive way. These were a set of headaches Jill had created for Arthur.’”

They may have been pissed, but they were wrong. This was a major story about a powerful executive and a sexual abuse coverup, and Abramson was proving her editorial independence by covering it. ‘[T]rust in the BBC has plummeted because of a scandal set off in part by the network’s decision to halt a reporting project on decades-old accusations of child sexual abuse against Jimmy Savile, the network’s longtime host of children’s and pop music shows,” wrote Matthew Purdy in a resulting piece. “Controversy over the canceled investigation was already brewing [the previous March]. It fully erupted in early October, just after he left and began preparing for his new job as president and chief executive of The New York Times Company.” The suggestion Abramson should have ignored this story because it embarrassed a powerful Times hire says something troubling about the paper’s priorities.

So, to summarize, the man who was the director-general of the BBC when a story about a serial rapist of children who operated in part on BBC premises was being suppressed still has his position. The woman who courageously and correctly investigated this story has lost hers, for no reason that seems remotely convincing. This…does not seem right. It certainly wasn’t about profitability, and while this is a matter of judgment, as a longtime dead tree subscriber I’d say that the quality is substantially improved from the Raines era.

Comments (143)

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  1. The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    Both the Friedman and Michelle Goldberg links go to the same place.

  2. Monty says:

    Yeah ok but then there’s this.

    Abramson weighs in:

    These are just a few recent cases. And providing facts to challenge false or misleading assertions isn’t just part of political coverage. We do it routinely in policy stories from Washington and business stories from Wall Street. We do it in science coverage, too — for example, we constantly point out the scientific consensus on climate change.

    Ignoring that, Abramson was by all accounts a shitty manager. And possibly not all that…

    First rule of management: where possible, don’t piss off anyone while lying to everyone.

    But then again, feel free to disregard. Had Abramson packed a penis to go with her balls I seriously doubt she would have been so rudely dismissed by Sulzberger y Thompson.

    • rea says:

      Monty, you’re rather missing the point. She doubtless had a great many flaws as a journalist and manager, all of which were known to her employer before she was promoted, so they cannot represent the reason she was fired.

      • Monty says:

        Rea: I rather think you ignored my last sentence.

      • … She doubtless had a great many flaws as a journalist and manager, all of which were known to her employer before she was promoted, so they cannot represent the reason she was fired.

        Sure they can. Known flaws can become a bigger problem than you anticipated.

      • GoDeep says:

        She doubtless had a great many flaws as a journalist and manager, all of which were known to her employer before she was promoted, so they cannot represent the reason she was fired.

        This line of logic suggests that she couldn’t have been fired for “being pushy”.

        • Manta says:

          Or being female.

          • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

            Stupid reasoning is stupid. You don’t think that women, PoC, etc. get hired by those under the impression that they’ll “stay in their place,” then get fired by those same people when they don’t?

        • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

          Why not? His feelings on her “pushiness” might have changed once he was more directly subject to it.

          • Manta says:

            I agree with you: somebody else, though, doesn’t:

            “She doubtless had a great many flaws as a journalist and manager, all of which were known to her employer before she was promoted, so they cannot represent the reason she was fired.”

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      was by all accounts

      Really?

  3. LosGatosCA says:

    I can see that this story can go in many different directions. The only one right now that reflects badly on the Times is that it was done abruptly, without any class, and no pretense of the usual ‘tough’ to make this decision
    , etc. That’s not very respectful of the people or even acknowledging that this was also their mistake in hiring her and they should assuming part of the blame.

    That said, Top management jobs are the most insecure and subject to change with the least notice. Including, I just don’t like you. lee Iacocca, Ted Turner are cases in point. Even Steve Jobs.

    Maybe a press conference where Eddie D fired her publicly like he did Marc Trestmann would have been classier. It’s a poor performance on their part.

    • GoDeep says:

      How would acknowledging that “it was a mistake on their part to promote her” be viewed as anything other than patronizing and condescending? Like Brad Pitt says to Jonah Hill in Moneyball on the subject of firing someone, “Would you rather get a bullet to the head or five to the chest and slowly bleed to death?”

      • LosGatosCA says:

        How would acknowledging that “it was a mistake on their part to promote her” be viewed as anything other than patronizing and condescending?

        First, if what the Times is implying is true, it was a mistake on their part to hire her.

        Second, to acknowledge their part in the debacle is hardly patronizing, etc. But to share the blame takes a little more class than they obviously don’t have.

        It’s not just about Abramson at this point, it’s about the values and image that the Times wants to embrace, or in this case refrain from embracing.

  4. Manju says:

    Slightly OT, but the NYTimes is not reporting any of this afak…even the sexism stuff. “Well of course not”, you say; “why would a company report their own sins?”

    Well, for one, they claim to have a wall of separation between their reporting and business side (as well as editorial, I think). But this episode demonstrates this to be a ruse.

    Imagine the opposite scenario: The NYTimes newsroom, using their elite access, becomes to The Abramson Firing what WaPo was to Watergate. How cool would that be? Would it not indeed advance their brand?

    Ok, they risk having to pay out a big settlement to Jill Abramson if their won reporters go digging. But the risk is still out there as all this stuff is being reported by others. Only now there is no upside. Missed opportunity for the NYTimes imo.

  5. Ronan says:

    Yeah but as people here consistently say, who cares when people at that level get fired ? And there arent any protections anyway. If you can justify someone getting fired for the way they voted on a ballot hen you really have no comeback here.

    • Gregor Sansa says:

      You might have had a point, if you didn’t wildly mischaracterize other people’s arguments. Nobody here has defended anyone getting fired for how they voted on a ballot.

      • Ronan says:

        people supported someone losing their job based on what position they took on an ongoing campaign (WHEN WE THOUGHT THATS WHAT HAPPENED – BEFORE THE PEDANTS ATTACK)

      • Ronan says:

        they justified eich losing his job for supporting the anti gay marriage bill. (ON THAT BASIS – REGARDLESS OF WHY HE LOST IT) any opposition was blown of as not understanding how high end employment contracts work. or saying i was living in a world of how things ought to be rather than are.

        • Eich didn’t lose his job, he resigned after 3 board members resigned because of the bad publicity he brought to the company.

          Also, it wasn’t for his vote, it was for his contributions to the Prop 8 campaign and to the arch-fascist Pat Buchanan.

          But, hey, bigots are people too, I guess.

    • Manju says:

      Well, your positive argument (“And there arent any protections anyway”) is just false: there are legal protections against gender discrimination (tho not political ones).

    • Manju says:

      If you can justify someone getting fired for the way they voted on a ballot hen you really have no comeback here.

      Well, if ones position is that the state should have laws protecting people from being fired for their political beliefs, then you have some justifyiong to do (although, I wouldn’t go as far as saying one has “no comeback here”.)

      But I haven’t heard anyone say that the law should protect Jill Abramson from being fired for her political beliefs (ie, reporting on Thompson). In that case its just a jegemnt call, ie: since its legal to fire a ceo for their political beliefs…i believe a anti gay marriage ceo should go but an anti-pedophile one should stay.

      what’s the problem?

    • witless chum says:

      People don’t say “who cares.” They say it’s not a First Amendment issue and that it’s acceptable to fire executives for their expressed views when their views compromise their ability to do their jobs. They also say that it’s reasonable for you to judge the organization for what views it fires people for.

      And none of that justifies sex discrimination, as manju points out.

      • witless chum says:

        Also, the issue isn’t Abramson herself. She’ll be fine. The issue is what does this mean for other women working at the Times and what does it suggest about the way Times execs think about women (and powerful pedophiles) and how will that be reflected in its coverage?

        And it raises the question of whether Joe Paterno would have a Times column if he were not dead.

        • Ronan says:

          But you havent shown sex discrimination you’ve shown gendered language, and this post isnt about sex discrimination. This post is part of SL’s ‘case for the defence’ as previous posts were ‘the case for the prosecution.’ These arent arguments but lawyers briefs. The whole point of the eich case was that vagueness is built into jobs at that level, so if they want to fire her for being ‘too pushy’ then thats fine because its a management decision, and firing by way of genered language isnt illegal. If they want to fire her for a story she choose, then thats fine. They can pick any number of reasons to fire her.
          (and yes, people did say ‘they dont care’ or ‘why should i care about this rich exec’ .. which is fine, Id just prefer they spare me the crocodile tears now.)

          But I agree with your comment here. Unfortunately that nuance (not by you, but some) is never extended to political opponents who might actually have a case for feeling aggrieved (such as eich,not sterling).

          “Also, the issue isn’t Abramson herself. She’ll be fine. The issue is what does this mean for other women working at the Times and what does it suggest about the way Times execs think about women (and powerful pedophiles) and how will that be reflected in its coverage? ”

          But this could also be said for the eich case. It wasnt about eich himself but the chilling effect it had in general. i dont think this argument is very strong, but its legitimate

          • Hogan says:

            These arent arguments but lawyers briefs.

            Um . . . how to put this . . .

            What the everloving fuck is a lawyer’s brief other than an argument?

            • Ronan says:

              yeah i know, and thought it a bad way of phrasing after the fact but didnt want to bother correcting it..i think the idea i was trying to get at is clear, if not i can make it clearer

              • Aimai says:

                Don’t bother. Your point, such as it is, is so crashingly dumb that I can’t even give you points for trolling.

                • Ronan says:

                  who asked you?

                • Who asked you to defend Eich?

                • sparks says:

                  When you start something on a thread, the last reply you should ever use is “who asked you?”

                • NonyNony says:

                  Welp, my estimation of Ronan has gone from “occasionally clueless” to “asshole who is probably trolling” with this post.

                  He was already getting their with his defense of bigots and his inability to understand that gender discrimination in the workplace is a real thing. But this takes the cake.

                • Ronan says:

                  i didnt say there is no gender discrimination in the workplace, and i didnt say i agreed with her firing.
                  and i dont have to respond to ‘crashingly dumb’ with a ‘thank you, can i have another?’ Of course I wasnt even particularly obnoxious above, i though me and aimai had come to a decision to ignore eachother (on her request) is all

                  anyway, ill bow out as im not trolling and its a nice day and im off early, so good luck

                • Warren Terra says:

                  who asked you?

                  I trust we’ve all seen the xkcd whose alt text helpfully points out that “defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you’re saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it’s not literally illegal to express.”. This illustrates a useful corollary and counterpoint: if your response to a cogent counter-argument is to dismiss your antagonist and to refuse to listen to them, you’re pretty much conceding your arguments can’t win on the merits.

                • Ronan says:

                  where was aimai’s cogent response ?

                • Ronan says:

                  well? or are you completly ignoring the conversation ? my argument above doesnt have to be correct/coherent, but there’s an argument. then there was a two line dismissal from aimai so im not sure why:

                  “cogent counter-argument is to dismiss your antagonist and to refuse to listen to them, you’re pretty much conceding your arguments can’t win on the merits.”

                  applies to my input

                • Warren Terra says:

                  In this case, Aimai wasn’t making an argument – but she was nonetheless clearly conveying her point, which was that you weren’t arguing in good faith. Your response was to dismiss her – not her complaint, her. How’s that working out for you?

                • Ronan says:

                  Are you serious ? Aimai, who had explictly said in a previous thread she doesn want to engage with me anymore (fine – and Ive no problem with that)answers a reasonably long response i have to somebody else with a 2 line put down(again, ive no problem with that)and I cant even respond with a ‘who asked you?’

                  I would doubt aimai would care, perhaps she does, but i doubt it. Why are you fighting this very limited argument on her behalf? I dont like her arguments and she doesnt like mine, but i didnt dismiss anything substantive she said.

                • Ronan says:

                  And im not saying she dismissed anything substantive i said. I dont care. Really. Im saying the way you are marketing this minor, trivial situation is bullshit

          • witless chum says:

            But you havent shown sex discrimination you’ve shown gendered language, and this post isnt about sex discrimination. This post is part of SL’s ‘case for the defence’ as previous posts were ‘the case for the prosecution.’ These arent arguments but lawyers briefs. The whole point of the eich case was that vagueness is built into jobs at that level, so if they want to fire her for being ‘too pushy’ then thats fine because its a management decision, and firing by way of genered language isnt illegal. If they want to fire her for a story she choose, then thats fine. They can pick any number of reasons to fire her.
            (and yes, people did say ‘they dont care’ or ‘why should i care about this rich exec’ .. which is fine, Id just prefer they spare me the crocodile tears now.)

            You seem to think that people saying they’re okay with one firing means they can’t be not okay with another firing and that’s just really dumb. You can actually evaluate the reasons behind each and form an opinion based on those reasons. I don’t see the conflict, because I don’t think there’s any kind of general principle that requires me to care or not care about executives losing their job. I feel perfectly comfortable approving of firings for reasons I agree with and disapproving of firings for reasons I don’t.

            But this could also be said for the eich case. It wasnt about eich himself but the chilling effect it had in general. i dont think this argument is very strong, but its legitimate

            As a person who could get fired for my unpopular left wing political views tomorrow, I don’t think this chilling effect argument is legitimate, no. The Eich case involved conservatives crying because one of their views, that gay people are less than straight people because god said it, has become unpopular enough that you can be fired for it in certain industries.

    • N__B says:

      1. No one knows how Eich or anyone else votes. He gave money to support a ballot measure that actively hurt people, including employees at Mozilla, and the donation was public record. That is what he was criticized for.

      2. I’ve yet to see any claim that Abramson has done anything but her job. Eich got embroiled in a controversy that had nothing to do with the job.

      3. There was no public controversy about Abramson until she was fired. Eich was involved in a public controversy before he started. The argument that was made about Eich was that in a C-level job, public perception matters. Mozilla’s public image was improved by Eich leaving; the NYT’s was hurt by firing Abramson.

      4. Eich wasn’t fired. Abramson was.

      In short, your argument is crap.

      • GoDeep says:

        3. There was no public controversy about Abramson until she was fired.

        Really? What would you call this headline: All Is Not Well at The New York Times on Gawker? Seems like its both public and controversial.

        • One Gawker story does not a controversy make. Especially one from a year ago.

        • Manta says:

          Please, let’s not mix facts with opinions.

        • N__B says:

          I would call it a headline at a gossip site. If you think that’s the equivalent of what happened with Eich, you’re a moron.

          • GoDeep says:

            NB you said there was no public controversy over Abramson’s management. To the contrary there were multiple stories in the press & lots of discussion on cable news. So, as a factual matter, you’re precisely wrong on this.

            • N__B says:

              First, as I said, the issues with Abramson concern her job, whereas the issues with Eich were about an outside issue. Second, you asked me what I thought of a headline, and I told you. Third, I think you’re a joke who posts nnsnse here in between bouts of licking the boots of the powerful.

              I’m done talking to you. Feel free to declare victory.

              • Manta says:

                N_B: are you claiming that firing somebody for a controversy about his/her job is more justifiable than firing somebody for something unrelated to the job?

                • Manta says:

                  Argh, somebody’s else kingdom for an edit button.

                  Are you claiming that firing somebody for a controversy about his/her job is LESS justifiable than firing somebody for something unrelated to the job?

                • N__B says:

                  See my 8:24 comment upstream. Eich was involved in a controversy that was seen by a lot of people as a direct attack on the rights of an unknown number of Mozilla employees and that made the company look bad. It was an unforced error on his part and one that was seen as hateful.

                  Abramson may be a terrible boss, I have no idea. But the issue was no different than problems that have existed with other senior editors at the Times over the decades, including Punch and Pinch and Keller…until the senior management decided to deal with it the way that they did. They have every right to fire Abramson for non-illegal reasons, but to claim that she suddenly was no a problem after having been there in a different senior job for a long time is suspect.

        • Hogan says:

          Any article that begins “If Politico is to be believed . . . ” lacks credibility.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        While much of this seems ok, isn’t the main difference here that no one (that I know of, certainly not Scott) is claiming that this is a free speech issue? The questions are whether her firing is substantially a matter of gender discrimination (seems likely) and, in any case, poor judgement (the timing certainly seems so). If her performance is objectively reasonably, then it strengthens the case that her firing was for her sex. If a personality type is acceptable if male but not if female, then this is, in fact, gender discrimination. Which is, and should be, illegal.

        Absent gender discrimination, I don’t see anyone claiming that the Times didn’t have the right (moral or legal). They could even (legally) fire her for bad reasons (like shaming the bosses by pursuing an investigation).

        I don’t really see the proposed hypocrisy. If you want to oppose Eich’s resigning because you think gay marriage is bad, or that no one should ever be fired because of political donations, you can do so. But the first is bigoted and the second is not a requirement of a robust conception of liberalism or respect for free speech.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Bijan’s first sentence is all that needs to be said; since nobody’s saying that Abramson’s free speech rights were violated, the comparisons are all specious on their face.

    • Manta says:

      What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  6. MacK says:

    Since I was on this side of the atlantic for much of the controversy –

    (a) it was and remains a huge story – it is not just Saville, but several other cases of rape and sexual abuse – and paedophilia being investigated. Rolf Harris who was both a singer and children’s presenter is now on trial;

    (b) Thomson’s role in the failure to address these issues (i.e., they were known about when he was at the BBC) was such a big deal that many were surprised that the New York Times hired him;

    (c) In particular, after Savile died, under Thompson’s watch a tribute to Savile was broadcast – even though BBC management were wondering how to deal with the “dark side” of Savile.

    (d) at the same time as the tribute was being crested the top BBC current affairs program had started work on a serious investigative piece on Savile – that piece was killed mysteriously, but senior management fingerprints were apparently visible. Thompson was asked by a developer of the investigation about the killing of the story.

    It is extraordinarily hard to see how the New York Times – with reporters in London could ignore what was the hottest story in the UK for over a year – and a story where there were issues about how Thompson had addressed the matter.

    A timeline is here:

    • LeeEsq says:

      The British blog Harry’s Place covered the Jimmy Saville saga in great detail. Its really sick. The man is basically a British Dick Clark that used his position to rape teenage girls. The institutional failure in the Saville saga is beyond belief. So many people completely failing to do the right thing even when it was freaking obvious. They just covered it up like the Catholic Church did.

      I think the British police and NHS are also implicated in permitting Jimmy Saville to engage in his evil ways for decades. There was one story, I think this took place in the 1970s, that the British police were looking for a runaway teenage girl. Saville apprently fond her in a club that he was at, told this to the police and said that he would turn her over in the morning after he was done with her. If this story is true, and there isn’t any reason to doubt it based on all the other facts, is absolutely revolting.

      • MacK says:

        The bigger problem is that Savile’s activities were an open secret (and it also turns out that there was Cyril Smyth a liberal MP who was into boys in the same period) – people knew quite widely. Ditto Max Clifford – in his case when the police executed the search warrant they found a letter from one of his victims in his bedside table – telling him the damage he had done to her life – evidently he kept it to turn himself on.

      • Jon H says:

        And the fact that Saville had keys and private apartments in care homes for troubled teen girls.

        I mean, WTF?

    • GoDeep says:

      I was pretty revolted at Sulzberger for hiring that clown considering the clouds swirling all around him. Seems to me to be a pretty shitty decision, and if it comes out that Abramson’s firing was a result of her trying to investigate Thomson’s involvement in the Savile cock up I hope Sulzberger goes the way of Sterling.

      • J R in WV says:

        Sulzberger runs the New York Times because his family has owned it for several generations. Unless his family decides he’s killing off their golden-egg-laying goose, he’s safe from being fired just for doing something wrong-headed and stupid.

    • Ed says:

      And the (very few) stories the Times ran were not exactly hard-hitting stuff. They may have pissed off Thompson, but that would only demonstrate his thin skin.

  7. ajay says:

    So, to summarize, the man who was the director-general of the BBC when a story about a serial rapist of children who operated in part on BBC premises was being suppressed still has his position.

    For clarity, “still has the job at the NYT which he took after leaving the BBC”.

  8. Aimai says:

    Yes, the lesson to be drawn here is that as usual powerful white men can skull fuck kittens on the lawn in front of their office, while when a woman rather timidly raises her hand and says “oh,what’s he doing to that kitte?” she gets fired right away with no explanation (other than) “she’s a bit pushy, innit?”

  9. Anderson says:

    I learned from Thursday’s NYT that the woman who edited Le Monde has also just been pushed out the door, evidently for being too pro-video etc., opposite of Abramson.

    Firing women: any excuse will do.

  10. Ahuitzotl says:

    The suggestion Abramson should have ignored this story because it embarrassed a powerful Times hire

    is entirely unsurprising, given the longstanding lickspittle approach this tired old wreck has approached to power figures for a long time now.

  11. Bruce Vail says:

    It’s hard for me to understand this rush to defend Abramson, a highly paid senior executive of a newspaper that is regularly damned at LGM of its numerous sins.

    Is there sexism in the NYT executive suite? It would be a miracle if there wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean the firings was unwarranted or unjust. I don’t know one way or the other, but I’ll wait for more detailed info before annointing Abramson as a feminist hero.

    • jim, some guy in iowa says:

      well, it could very well *all* be true. she can be a lousy boss and a pain-in-the-ass to work with and still be getting screwed over financially and punished for asking the wrong questions about the wrong people. I’m not sure people are holding Abramson up as a hero, more as another example of how dysfunctional the times is specifically and our system’s treatment of women is in general

    • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

      Because sexism anywhere causes “splash damage” to all women. Same reason progressives should object when Sarah Palin is called misogynist names.

    • Warren Terra says:

      No one is rushing out to uphold Abramson as a paragon of individual virtue, someone we feel deserves by right to helm the Times.

      But: arbitrary, clumsy, badly implemented management changes at our country’s only real national newspaper will attract notice! And institutional, rather vicious sexism matters, even when the victim is something of a putz!

      • FMguru says:

        I don’t see any evidence that she was much of a putz. People didn’t like her, but we have a name for people we don’t like who tell us to do things we don’t feel like doing and aren’t sympathetic when we make excuses: bosses. There are countless male executives whose behavior is a hundred times worse than Abramson’s who are held up as paragons to be emulated. Being blunt and sharp and cutting is called “leadership” when men do it, and cultivating a tough, unsentimental, no nonsense approach to management is pretty much expected in the business world. Steve Jobs was an asshole to pretty much everyone he ever met (including his partner Wozniak who he stole from and his first daughter who he denied the existence of and left to rot in poverty while he was becoming the darling of the early PC era) and I’m pretty sure I’ve given more money to charity than he ever did. Bill Gates was famous for humiliating underlings in meetings and trying to get them to break down and cry (usually successfully). And these guys (and their ilk) are heroes.

        Abramson rubbed some people the wrong way and ruffled a few feathers (in a newsroom, of all places!) and, welp, suddenly she had to go. Hmmm.

        • GoDeep says:

          Its certainly true that women are expected to act more generously than men, just as its true that blacks are expected to act more deferential than whites. (Which means its really fucked up for black women). But, even so, asshole men have been fired for being assholes. Steve Jobs was unceremoniously fired. Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap also comes to mind. I thought this quote was instructive.

          Abramson had previously been the paper’s managing editor, and many in the newsroom considered her to be intimidating and brusque; she was too remote and, they thought, slightly similar to an earlier executive editor, the talented but volcanic Howell Raines, who had also begun the job right after Labor Day, in 2001. After less than two years, Raines was forced out, and his memory is still cursed.

          • But the NYT definitely said that she wasn’t fired for ‘being pushy’. Who are we to believe here?

            I’m sure the NYT powers-that-be appreciate your efforts on their behalf.

          • Hogan says:

            Dunlap wasn’t fired for being an asshole; he was fired for accounting fraud.

          • jim, some guy in iowa says:

            aside from personal style can you point out an Abramson fuckup comparable to Raines publishing Jayson Blair for months after learning he was faking stuff?

            • GoDeep says:

              Personal style is really big deal. I’d say 7 times out of 10, personal chemistry carries the day–much more so than any objective sense of meritocracy…The compensation issue is well worth investigating, I’m not saying she wasn’t discriminated against. I’m saying, as you said above I think, that there’s prolly a lot more to this than meets the eye. From my reads of the press, these were the money quotes:

              Abramson has been notably absent — or “AWOL,” as several staffers put it — at key periods when the Times required leadership. “The Times is leaderless right now,” one staffer said. “Jill is very, very unpopular.”

              Sulzberger and Abramson had a fraught relationship almost from the start of her tenure as executive editor, nearly three years ago. He saw her as difficult, high-handed, and lacking in finesse in her management of people at the paper.

              If your boss thinks you’re difficult, high handed, and a poor mgr you’re prolly not going to last a long time…particularly in an industry with abysmal morale.

              • jim, some guy in iowa says:

                so the paper could print arrant bullshit and continue to lose circulation, and so long as Abramson went around rubbing people’s tummies it’s all good?

                personally, I don’t buy that her management style itself- or even making a fuss about her compensation- did her in. I’d say those things *did* 1) weaken her support with the rank and file, and 2)create friction with her boss. that made it all the easier to ditch her for going after Thompson, which in my opinion is the real reason she got fired

                and if I have to make a moral decison, I think whatever Abramson’s failures might be in managing the newsroom, it still is a lot less of a sin than Sulzberger’s screwing her over on salary and Thompson’s covering up for a serial rapist

                especially when you didn’t come up with an answer to the question I asked, which was whether she was dishonest like Raines or Dunlap, to whom you compared her

                • GoDeep says:

                  No one’s accused her of dishonesty AFAIK. I only included the bit about Raines b/cs ppl who work there said their temperaments were similar. If you read the New Yorker link I posted above, I think its unlikely that the Thompson issue was crucial, since he appears to have been trying to get her to stay on in the weeks before.

          • Jon H says:

            “But, even so, asshole men have been fired for being assholes.”

            I’m not sure Jobs was fired for being an asshole.

            And he was still something of an asshole (perhaps less so or perhaps in different ways) when he came back to Apple. Certainly few would describe Jobs as being easy to work with or for.

        • Warren Terra says:

          My point was not to assert that she’s a putz but simply to say that the people arguing about whether she’s a putz are missing the point.

  12. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    what I get out of this is that Sulzberger couldn’t run the free arts and entertainment weekly you see at the bookshops and coffee houses

  13. Warren Terra says:

    Some of the gender-discrimination allegations that were first reported were unclear (in particular, the claim that as executive editor Abramson made moderately less than her male predecessor; that the Times would try to pay top-level staff less, and would implement the changes as personnel changed in each position, seemed like at least a plausible explanation and defense.

    But more recently we’ve learned that (1) as executive editor Abramson was paid far less than a male deputy was, which sounds really bad even though it, too, might be explained by grandfathering and length of tenure; and (2) Abramson’s male successor as Washington DC editor of the Times made a lot (100K?) more than she had in the same job.

    It’s that last that’s the real killer. If the pay disparities were about switching to a diminished pay scale to save money in a declining industry, with this plan being implemented piecemeal as new people took the affected positions, then maybe you could come up with a bias-free explanation for why Abramson would earn less than her predecessor, and maybe you could also explain why she’d earn less than her underling. But it’s awfully hard to square that with the increased pay for her male successor as DC editor …

    • FMguru says:

      Oooh, that’s good. For me, the smoking gun is that the NYT’s numbers (revenue, etc.) went up during her tenure, in contrast to pretty much everywhere else in the print/hybrid media. Also, there were no real scandals during her time (apart from the usual ongoing scandals of the editorial page modulo Krugman and the style section and the neverending stories about the struggles of the not-quite-rich-enough) which makes her a nice change from the days of Jayson Blair and Wen Ho Lee and Saddam’s WMDs. Numbers are up, Pulitzers still roll in like clockwork, a noted lack of embarrassing scandals – whatever reason they had for dumping her, it sure wasn’t performance related.

      Ugly, ugly story.

    • GoDeep says:

      #2 would be damning, but it looks like you’re talking abt something that happened 11yrs ago in 2003. I believe the “downsizing” on pay began around the time of Keller’s departure.

      The pay issue is worth looking at Mika Brzenzski made less than both Joe Scarborough & Willie Geist until she took steps to change that.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Yes, it was a decade ago. But it was fairly indefensible (her successor to what is pretty much the plum bureau-chief job in the entire newspaper industry gets at least 25% more pay than she did, and just happens to have two more testicles than she does?), and it establishes a pattern that much affect how we judge the pay disparities she later experienced. It would be hard for the Times to defend themselves by saying “we screwed her out of pay because of her ovaries a dozen years ago, and we also and separately screwed her out of pay just now, but this time we had a viable, defensible justification.”

        • GoDeep says:

          In any one individual case anything can happen. Its an issue worth investigating tho, particularly for systemic bias. I wouldn’t think a newly installed Executive Editor would make as much on Day 1 as an Executive Editor who had been in the job 10yrs b/cs that 10yrs of experience counts for something. For her successor at the DC Bureau the questions I’d ask was if he paid comparably to other DC bureau chiefs & how much was he making before he took the DC job. If they installed someone with long tenure and only gave him a 5-10% bump that might explain it. I’ve known ppl to get promoted to positions and get considerably less salary and title than their predecessor (in that case a white guy replacing a white guy), so I’m not quick to draw conclusions.

    • Royko says:

      So now it appears that she was paid less than her male predecessors in two positions and paid less than her male successor in a third. What’s the saying…two’s a coincidence, three’s a pattern? It definitely gets harder to explain away.

      • Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action”.

      • dbk says:

        It looks as if she earned ~80% of what her male predecessors did in every position she held. When she was named executive editor in 2011, she’d already been with the organization 14 years, a longish tenure in journalism (she was not a job-hopper), and after that length of time, invocations of lack of seniority for the person heading up the organization’s daily operations are pretty lame.

        I suspect that her discover that she’d been consistently paid less than her predecessors(and successors?)and her decision to have her lawyer investigate this were the straw that broke the camel’s back for Sulzberger et al.

  14. Adrienne Parks says:

    You should care what happens to Jill Abramson because presumably you have a mother, sister, Aunts, female cousins and/nieces who may have dreams if their own.
    They could use your encouragement.

  15. T. Paine says:

    Let’s also not forget that firing someone for raising their right to equal pay (or inquiring into gender-based pay disparity) is against the law too. Even if there’s no underlying discrimination, a retaliation claim still has a lot of legs.

    • FMguru says:

      I presume she was given a Brinks truck full of gold bars to get her to agree to waive her right to sue the paper for wrongful termination.

      • T. Paine says:

        “Wrongful termination” is a state law issue – employment discrimination and retaliation under Title VII are federal law issues. Also, I’d be shocked if anyone preemptively waived either sort of claim – “so, you’ll give me $50,000 now, and in exchange you can call me slurs to my face and fire me for being a woman and I can’t file a lawsuit?”

        You see how unlikely a preemptive waiver is.

  16. Joe says:

    Goldberg:

    “Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs,”

    Calling Ms. Ledbetter …

  17. GoDeep says:

    Who wrote the Goldberg piece, Abramson’s mother? I found her (and your) diatribe against video on news sites to be baffling. I, too, prefer text to video b/cs its simply faster for me. But I think the newspaper company that’s not investing in video isn’t investing in its future.

    • Warren Terra says:

      The complaint that reporters have been making, quite vocally, for the best part of a decade now, is that they are expected to provide more frequent and more varied content updates to news consumers, and they are neither paid additionally nor trained additionally to handle the new requirements. The video isn’t just an unpolished and inefficient mode of delivering information the reporter has already conveyed in print and in the process condensed and clarified for the reader; it’s also extra work for the reporter, who would rather be working on their next story.

      • Videos are for entertainment and/or opinion stories, not straight news reporting.

        • keta says:

          Really? The straight news coverage of, say, the tsunami that hit Japan wasn’t enhanced by video? Or a gazillion other examples anybody could cite?

          • I’m talking about in newspaper terms, not network news, which are two different things, and if you updated the tsumani story, what are you going to show that’s different from the original video? New shots of new people crying over their loss?

            • keta says:

              Video is really, really good when the imagery is compelling. Video really, really sucks when it’s nothing more than talking heads, babbling, and it’s fucking awful (and definitely NOT journalism) when it’s a talking head “reporter” giving us all his/her opinion. It’s pure flummery.

              Have a look at Bennett’s piece (linked in the Golberg article.)

          • Jon H says:

            Video is a nice additional feature for a story, but it’s a slow and inefficient way to convey the detailed meat of a story. You can skim an article for the salient facts more easily than you can skim a video.

      • keta says:

        The complaint that reporters have been making, quite vocally, for the best part of a decade now, is that they are expected to provide more frequent and more varied content updates to news consumers,…

        It’s called “feeding the goat” in the biz.

        …and they are neither paid additionally nor trained additionally to handle the new requirements.

        Because the big brains in the boardroom think, “hey! if she’s a journalist she should be able to tell a story in any medium, amirite? Instead of three hires we just need one!”

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      There’s “video,” and there’s “having two reporters blather on for half an hour about a story you could read in two minutes.”

      • keta says:

        My favourite is “on the scene” reportage. The live hit where a reporter breathlessly tells us all what went down “at this very spot,” usually hours or even days or weeks after whatever happened happened.

        Riveting stuff.

      • GoDeep says:

        That’s not a reason not to invest, its a reason to double down w/ real money & a real strategy. If the reports are true the buzzards are circling the industry–what with Google gobbling up 2/3rds of advertising–so this is prolly a life and death issue for many newspapers. I don’t know that anyone has found the silver bullet but I think its silly to pan video. There have been a few on the NYT that I liked. Some on cooking, the others on CD releases. None were from sections I normally visit.

  18. Tiny Tim says:

    If online news organizations want to invest in video, that’s fine (smart or not I have no idea), but video takes an immense amount of time and resources to do not horribly. You have to dress reasonably well, put on makeup, etc. A 5 minute clip is at least an hour of your life, assuming the production staff really as their stuff together. As in, the organization has actually invested in video instead of just thinking they can point a smartphone at a couple of people at a desk and make compelling content.

    It isn’t what most print reporters do or want to do. It’s stupid. If a place like the NYT wants to hire a couple of anchors to do it right, that’s one thing, but thinking bloggingheads is the future is pretty silly.

    • keta says:

      Writing a news story for print, or for video, or for an audio-only feed are all vastly different. Journalists who excell in one of these mediums are not necessarily adept in the other mediums.

      And a talking head without any sort of b-roll is NOT broadcast journalism. It’s a fucking talking head, babbling.

  19. FMguru says:

    Special credit to ace Politico media reporter Dylan Byers for tweeting “Congratulations to those of you who are buying the Abramson/salary explanation hook, line and sinker. Your lack of skepticism is admirable.” last night.

  20. Gwen says:

    The only reason for the dismissal I can see is that Abramson rubbed people the wrong way.

    And that’s rather weak tea.

    I hope Abramson sues the Sulzbergers for everything they got… although of course I’d prefer to see a meteor obliterate the Murdoch empire first, because the worst outcome would be that Castle Greylady falls to the barbarian hordes.

  21. […] and comparisons with the firing of the previous (male) editor by Echidne, Echidne again, LGM and The Nation. •And this critique of Tal Fortgang, a Princeton student who’s gotten a lot […]

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