What Does Jill Abramson's Firing Mean?

Monday, May 19, 2014

The New York Times fired executive editor Jill Abramson last week, setting off a flurry of conversation about powerful women, internal politics, and the future of The Grey Lady. David Folkenflik, NPR media correspondent, discusses what we know and what comes next. And Rachel Sklar, founder of and former media reporter for Huffington Post and others, talks about why she think the Abramson firing says troubling things about the way women are treated in corporate America.


David Folkenflik

Comments [31]

DTorres from Manhattan

Why would the NYTIMES hire a college dropout Dean Baquet?

To me, Dean Baquet looks like a trigueño not an African.

Dean Baquet is a Columbia University college drop out, he couldn't cut it.
Jill Abramson graduated from Ethical Culture Fieldston School
BA in History and Literature from Harvard University/Radcliffe College.
Her educational background is impeccable.

May. 20 2014 05:49 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Just saw a clip of Jill giving a commencement speech, and sounds like the voice has improved...

May. 19 2014 06:10 PM
JR from New York

Many of the comments so far seem to break along party lines (party here consisting in men and women). If the Times fired her for hiring a lawyer to investigate whether or not she was getting paid less than a man in either a comparable or subordinate position, then the Times is no better than Walmart and a lot of other despicable corporations, and I think that this will turn out to have been the case.
On another topic, how can it be that Rachel Sklar writes and blogs about professional women yet somehow does not know how to pronounce the word "women" (hint: it is not pronounced the same as "woman")?

May. 19 2014 12:53 PM
Josh Lake

Forgive me if I get a little personal here....but how can anyone listen to that whiny voice without wanting to flee?

May. 19 2014 12:39 PM

It means her employer was no longer pleased with her performance or effectiveness. That's at-will employment.

If what the NYT says is true, it's irrelevant that she's a woman. Female executives can be fired for ineffectiveness without any need to drone on about alleged "double-standards." Indeed, true equality means that you can be fired based on merit - or lack of it - without consideration of gender.

There is, at present, only allegations of gender bias or double standards. There is no hard evidence whatsoever. Speculation by the media and the punditry is does not a federal case make.

May. 19 2014 12:33 PM
SRF from NYC

That was a nice touch, BL Show, adding the clips from Jill Abramson's commencement speech.

May. 19 2014 12:07 PM
Katherine from Brooklyn

Rachel Sklar's comments about the double standard by which men and women executives are judged are right on target. Women's personalities, their personal traits, are always attacked, regardless of their impressive achievements and results. She would not have been fired if she were a man.

Questions that weren't raised and probably won't be but figure into Abramson's case:

1) The nepotism of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.'s son (or nephew?) as digital editor;

2) Possible problems that Dean Bacquet had in answering to a female boss (and a white woman--but no one wants to talk about race). Reports say that Sulzberger told him that he was going to fire Abramson six days before he actually did;

3) What effect, if any, did Abramson's justifiable anger at being paid as much as $100,000 less than her predecessor have on her management style? Add to this the injustice of her receiving less pay than one of her subordinates during her tenure as managing editor? She had every right to be angry. It's no wonder she consulted a lawyer.

Say what you want, but the issue unequal pay is equal to the unequal treatment of women in the workplace. If she'd received equal pay in the first place, perhaps none of this would have happened. That said, her achievements as Executive Editor were impressive and considerable. I hope she sues the Times.

May. 19 2014 11:44 AM
Sarah from NYC

Yeah, the Times' sexism is real and very very annoying. I don't doubt the wage disparity.
But also annoying and troubling is the Times' skewed perspective on race, black men (negative), elite whites (that dear couple who know all about Africa because they read a book once) - and and that slant did not change under her direction. Elsewhere, Ishmael Reed pointed out that under Abramson the Times freely reported on black on white violence, but left white on white to the back pages.
I am a hyper feminist who took a dislike to Abramson almost immediately--those dogs of hers did nothing to woo me over. All that power and she wants to talk about her dogs? What about food banks or children at risk or reading the history of something interesting - Margaret Fuller, the Crimean Wars, colonialism and reportage.

May. 19 2014 11:43 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Everybody seems to have forgotten that NYT and its editors and reporter- Judith Miller- had a hand in putting the US into the Iraq War. So do I thinking that organization is anything more then corporate propaganda?

May. 19 2014 11:21 AM
David from Up North

That the newsroom environment was toxic under her leadership and that many felt extremely uncomfortable with her is well established.

That she was considered obnoxious, mercurial, duplicitous, and resented for it is well established.

Let us say, though, that a great part of their discomfort with her is due to there being more resentment and discomfort with pushy women than pushy men.

The fact remains that people were uncomfortable and the newsroom environment suffered for it.

Should she have been kept on, to the newsroom's detriment, simply because we would WANT people to tolerate obnoxious pushiness from women as much as they do so in men and NOT have this double standard?

Was Sulzberger obligated to risk the newsroom over this?

May. 19 2014 11:06 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


Also, I was a technical writer in Israel for ten years, working alongside all kinds of engineers and programmers, including female ones, so I do something about them. I had to read and sometimes even debugged some of their junk.

May. 19 2014 11:06 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


>Yikes! Are you really that far out of touch? Computers programs are designed by PEOPLE.<

Yes,many people not just one with an axe to grind.

> Therefore, they are prone to the same biases as PEOPLE. The bigotry of computers is hidden because it is collective and not creditable to a single bad actor.<

The more actors the better. The are also good women programmers. Ever hear of Ada? The more programmers working on it, the less chance of prejudice being programmed into it, and more chance of prejudice programmed OUT of it.

May. 19 2014 11:03 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

The New York Times management and publisher are a bunch of hypocrites. So now they have a yes man “Tom” as editor. They only way African-American men can make it in a corporate apartheid system.

May. 19 2014 10:52 AM


"A computer will be fair and compensate strictly by productivity. It will have no prejudices."

Yikes! Are you really that far out of touch? Computers programs are designed by PEOPLE. Therefore, they are prone to the same biases as PEOPLE. The bigotry of computers is hidden because it is collective and not creditable to a single bad actor. Further, once designed, coded, tested and deployed computer programs are very hard to change. I'll take a human who can be swayed with a strong argument over a machine any day. Wouldn't you?

May. 19 2014 10:39 AM
MR from NC

Jill Abramson seems to have created a culture of aggression and deceit amongst her colleagues as well. The video desk's lack of morality has had a terrible effect on the quality of the work done too.

May. 19 2014 10:32 AM

Also, why does Sulzberger’s son just happen to be the most qualified person to organize a "task force" for NYT's digital approach? Does it not behoove them to search beyond the family when determining their future?

The blatant nepotism doesn't portend a truthful outcome in these kinds of conflicts.

May. 19 2014 10:25 AM

more palace intrigue (aka "gossip") filled with supposition, conjecture, nonsense that non-times employee will never really understand. i mean, let's be real; even if you worked there, you still wouldn't be privy to all the junk that goes on the glass offices. (so it kills me to hear your "on the media" staffers, and others, act like they have a real clue.) one good thing: the TIMES keeps going on and on, at a high level, no matter who sits in the big chairs. so let's not pretend that this really, really has much to do with the lives of real people.

May. 19 2014 10:21 AM
sp from nyc

And the men of the Times circle the wagons, trying to make us believe what is patently untrue. The idea that Baquet, who punched a wall and walked out on a meeting with Abramson, his superior, has a temperament fit to lead, but that she was too pushy, absolutely proves the sexist contentions. He undercut her, and won a nasty power grab, but that doesn't win respect, especially from women of Abramson's generation (of whom I am one)--we have seen it all before, and recognize the stench arising from the Times newsroom.

May. 19 2014 10:20 AM

I'm mighty curious to learn how her approach to native advertising clashed with Thompson's.

May. 19 2014 10:17 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Besides the end of marriage and family, I also think that the end of humans managing other humans will also come to an end in this century as improving artificial intelligence and robotics means that organizations will increasingly be managed by computers and robots. A computer will be fair and compensate strictly by productivity. It will have no prejudices. It would pay, hire and fire strictly on the basis of pre-programmed efficiency and productivity standards.

May. 19 2014 10:14 AM

The question I have though is: If this is a double standard, is it a standard that ought to actually be applied to everyone? In other words, the reasons being given for her dismissal seem like good ones. It sounds like a toxic work environment. Would a man have been dismissed for the same reasons? Probably not, but maybe they should be. Maybe we need to raise the standard for male managers rather than lower them for female managers.

May. 19 2014 10:14 AM
saskia from NYC

They deserve an editor they can work with? Isn't that a two way street?

May. 19 2014 10:11 AM

Would arthur sulzberger still have his job had he not inherited his fief

May. 19 2014 10:10 AM
Sebastian from Manhattan Valley

So many people comment on how unlistenable to she is. I think that speech mannerism of her's is designed to keep the floor in every conversation, to not give anyone else a chance to chime in. She draws out the last syllable of the final word in her sentences so there's no pause between them and therefor no room for someone else to join the conversation.

May. 19 2014 10:04 AM
Kate from Manhattan

It means that maybe the news coverage and especially the culture coverage will get better. It's been HORRENDOUS, dumbed down and not forward thinking.

May. 19 2014 10:03 AM
bernie from bklyn

what does her firing mean?
hopefully it means that we won't have to endure her ear-stabbing voice on the BL show anymore. it's hard to pay attention to anything she's saying with a voice like that.

May. 19 2014 09:52 AM
John from Over There

Left/right liberal/conservative, the NYT is a terrible source for news, period. They deal in slanted narratives and PR, not facts. In my personal experience alone, with several obits and interviews, and a wedding announcement, they are 0/7. Now the paper is dying in a digital age, which is probably one of the contributing factors to why Abramson was ousted.

(Not to mention they keep a stable of go-to's for science "expertise" that makes one wonder how the go-to's do any science when they're not providing book blurbs or penning expert opinions in the NYTimes lest their egos shrivel up.)

May. 19 2014 09:34 AM


Or perhaps it was her critique of the Obama regime?
(Ms. Abramson signed on to the Times after its "awful role in Iraq". )[Jill Abramson: 'This is the most secretive White House I have ever dealt with']

May. 19 2014 09:11 AM

In the instant "drama" does "Pinch" Sulzberger get to play a less bilious Donald Sterling - as every attempt to explain how his firing of the Times's editor is not sexist gets him deeper into conflict with the Taliban tempered feminists who rule the progressive media?

Statement of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., issued on May 17, 2014

Abramson’s Exit at The Times Puts Tensions on Display

May. 19 2014 09:03 AM

Why does everyone assume she was fired for being assertive? Sometimes women have a different moral compass than men. Maybe she wasn't on board with the war propaganda the NY Times always delivers for the government. The NY Times may be liberal domestically but they never saw a war they didn't like. Sure, after the war is underway and the working class is stuck with the bill and the bodybags the NYT will do a bunch of investigative reporting and win a heap of awards but leading up to war the NY Times plays dumb. To me the only thing serious enough to get someone ousted in such a public and nasty way is that she couldn't be trusted to sell a future war. Maybe it wasn't the pro-women statements that did it but the statements about the NYT's awful role in Iraq.

May. 19 2014 09:02 AM

What Does Jill Abramson's Firing Mean?

... er, that Jill didn’t understand that she was no longer needed at the Times since they had already checked off the “First Female Editor” box with her – and now it was time to move on and get the “First Black Editor” box checked? (“We are soooo cool.”)(Prediction: gay or Latino box is next)

... er, that Black is the new black?

... er, that use of the word “bossy” could probably sink the career of a Republican, but the NYT can dump women for it?

... er, that the Left is as hypocritical as some of us have always said (and never, never “liberal”)?

May. 19 2014 05:00 AM

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