Thursday Reads: Gray Lady Down and Other News

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Good Morning!!

News broke late yesterday afternoon that New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson had suddenly been replaced by Managing Editor Dean Baquet. Here’s the New York Times’ own report: Times Ousts Its Executive Editor, Elevating Second in Command.

Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company, told a stunned newsroom that had been quickly assembled that he had made the decision because of “an issue with management in the newsroom.”

Ms. Abramson, 60, had been in the job only since September 2011. But people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tension in her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, who was concerned about complaints from employees that she was polarizing and mercurial. She had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet.

In recent weeks, these people said, Mr. Baquet had become angered over a decision by Ms. Abramson to make a job offer to a senior editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install her alongside him in a co-managing editor position without consulting him. It escalated the conflict between them and rose to the attention of Mr. Sulzberger.

Ms. Abramson did not attend the afternoon meeting at which her dismissal was announced.

2010 Matrix Awards

The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes under Ms. Abramson, and she won praise for journalistic efforts both in print and on the web. She had previously served as the head of the Washington bureau, and before coming to The Times was an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal. She co-wrote, with Ms. [Jane ] Mayer [of the New Yorker], “Strange Justice,” a book about the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

But as a leader of the newsroom, she was accused by some of divisiveness and criticized for several of her personnel choices, in particular the appointment of several major department heads who did not last long in their jobs.

With Mr. Sulzberger more closely monitoring her stewardship, tensions between Ms. Abramson and Mr. Baquet escalated. In one publicized incident, he angrily slammed his hand against a wall in the newsroom. He had been under consideration for the lead job when Ms. Abramson was selected and, according to people familiar with his thinking, he was growing frustrated working with her.

Let’s see . . . Abramson was “polarizing and mercurial,” “was accused by some of divisiveness,” and her male second in command didn’t like taking orders from her, have I got that right? Is it just me, or do those sound like code words?

Now let’s see what people who don’t work for Sulzberger are saying.

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From Ken Auletta at The New Yorker: WHY JILL ABRAMSON WAS FIRED.

At the annual City University Journalism School dinner, on Monday, Dean Baquet, the managing editor of the New York Times, was seated with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the paper’s publisher. At the time, I did not give a moment’s thought to why Jill Abramson, the paper’s executive editor, was not at their table. Then, at 2:36 P.M. on Wednesday, an announcement from the Times hit my e-mail, saying that Baquet would replace Abramson, less than three years after she was appointed the first woman in the top job. Baquet will be the first African-American to lead the Times.

Fellow-journalists and others scrambled to find out what had happened. Sulzberger had fired Abramson, and he did not try to hide that. In a speech to the newsroom on Wednesday afternoon, he said, “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects …” Abramson chose not to attend the announcement, and not to pretend that she had volunteered to step down.

Apparently, the real problem Sultzberg had with Abramson was that she was an uppity woman.

As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. 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. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”

The other issues Auletta mentions are similar to those described in the NYT article: she had problems with Baquet and those who worked under her sometimes complained she was “brusque” (as opposed to Mr. Personality, Bill Keller?). Again, it sounds to me as if Abraham’s biggest “problem” was her gender. Mr. Baquet sounds pretty “pushy” too, but for him that was acceptable, I guess. Josh Marshall at TPM points out that:

The Times article notes in passing that Abramson reached a settlement with the Times, which makes pretty clear that whatever might have happened with disparate pay or a connection between her pressing the matter and her firing there will not be a lawsuit.

Hmmm . . . Sounds like Sultzberger thought Abramson might have grounds to sue if he didn’t settle with her.

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At Business Insider, Hunter Walker calls attention to the Times’ past problems with gender disparities in pay (also mentioned by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker piece linked above):

Auletta claimed other Times staffers were concerned about the pay disparity between Abramson and Keller. He said it brought up “ugly memories” of a 1974 lawsuit female employees made against the paper due to allegations of sex discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion.

On Twitter, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik subsequently confirmed Auletta’s report. Folkenflik also noted unspecified “figures at Times wonder what role gender ultimately played in (Abramson’s) ouster.”

Finally, Politico describes how the announcement impacted other New York Times employees: Invitation to a beheaading: How Times editors learned of Abramson’s ouster:

“Please come to a masthead/dept head meeting at 2:00 p.m. today in the page one conference room/3rd floor.”

That was the note top editors at The New York Times received this afternoon summoning them to an abrupt gathering in which publisher and Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. would inform them that executive editor Jill Abramson was being replaced in the No. 1 masthead spot by one of her deputies, managing editor Dean Baquet….

[T]he news…came as a shock to most of the assembled editors. There had been none of the drama or widespread discontent that led up to the famous firing of Howell Raines in 2003. In fact when they arrived in the room, their first inkling of what was about to transpire was the fact that Abramson was not present.

Sulzberger gave the same vague reasoning for the change that would be relayed in a company memo and at a full newsroom meeting shortly thereafter—that the decision had to do with Abramson’s newsroom management.

Not everyone was buying it. When Sulzberger said he was sure it doesn’t “come as a surprise to you,” video editor Bruce Headlam spoke up in Abramson’s defense, according to a person who was present. “It does come as a surprise to me,” the source recalls him saying.

Two other editors also voiced their concerns, sources with knowledge of the meeting told Capital. National editor Alison Mitchell suggested that Abramson’s firing wouldn’t sit well with a broad swath of female Timesjournalists who saw her as a role model. (Abramson became the Times‘ first female executive editor in 2011, after Bill Keller stepped down.) Assistant managing editor Susan Chira seconded that notion.

Read more at the link.

So . . . draw your own conclusions. My guess is we’ll be reading and hearing quite a bit more about the Times and its history of gender discrimination over the next few days.

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In other news . . . links to some stories that interested me:

The Hill: US using drones to find kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Yahoo News: Missouri lawmakers pass 3-day abortion wait period.

TPM: Christie Predicts BridgeGate Will Have Zero Effect On His Political Future.

NPR: Election-Year Politics Dooms Energy Bill, Averts Pipeline Vote.

Politico: Snowden Is The Kind of Guy I Used to Recruit—in Russia (by former CIA director of operations Jack Devine).

io9: The Ultimate Proof That Keeping Orca Whales in Captivity is Monstrous.

Digg: Gone Girls — The Female Sociopath.

CNN: 9 wildfires spring up around San Diego, more than 9,000 acres burned.

CBS News: Turkey mining accident toll nears 300 as anger at PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan boils over.

NYT: Captain and 3 Officers Charged With Murder in Korean Ferry Sinking.

What else is happening? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

59 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Gray Lady Down and Other News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Spoiler Warning:

    Don’t read the article about female sociopaths unless you’ve already read Gone Girl or you don’t plan to. The entire premise of the book is revealed in the first paragraph of the article. I hate when writers do that.

    You have been warned.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I read and enjoyed “Gone Girl” and our book club chose it as one of our selections last year.

      Yes, there are such things as female sociopaths with all things being “equal”.

      Great coverage of the Times situation and Jill Abramson. Glad you chose to lead with that since I’m sure we will be hearing more and more about the inner workings of that paper.

  2. joanelle says:

    Thanks for this post, BB, you’ve helped to sort things out about the Times for us. It seems as though strong women are getting clocked at every turn.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It may be time for Sultzberger to replace himself.

      • joanelle says:

        Good thought!

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I’m sure he has his own little internal cheering section that’s singing “Ding-Dong” this morning. Maybe we’ll get a full blown expose out of this that will pull the rug out from under the prick.

  3. janicen says:

    I just finished reading the article in the NYT about Abramson’s firing and my feminist hackles were twitching over the descriptions of her as “mercurial” and “divisive” (there’s not a woman who has held a leadership role on this planet who hasn’t been called the same) and I came over here to find you were all over the story, bb. Thank you for the links to all of the other coverage about this. I want to swear now, but I’ll go back and read all of the links first.

    • janicen says:

      One thing that jumped out at me was this quote…

      With Mr. Sulzberger more closely monitoring her stewardship, tensions between Ms. Abramson and Mr. Baquet escalated. In one publicized incident, he angrily slammed his hand against a wall in the newsroom

      He slams his hand against the wall in the office and she’s described as “mercurial”? WTF does that make him?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yeah, that was really mature. He sounds “pushy” and “mercurial.” He got what he wanted too. Jerk.

        • NW Luna says:

          In one publicized tantrum, he childishly slammed his hand against a wall in the newsroom

          That’s how it should have been written.

      • bostonboomer says:

        “Polarizing” is another good code word. That one has been endlessly applied to Hillary.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          They’re already going to work on Hillary. Someone needs to shove a sock in Karl Rove’s mouth.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Who the hell even uses the word “mercurial”? Do they think we don’t know that’s fucking code for MOODY? MAD MEN!!!!

        • ANonOMouse says:

          Y’all need to remember that if a woman is “mercurial” it can make a man’s balls fall off and his thingy disappear!!! 🙂

          • janicen says:

            Yup! And that’s why we can’t have nice jobs. We get all uppity and start demanding equal compensation, hiring other women into leadership positions, and even dare to challenge men’s superiority. Must be the hormones. 😉

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    It has been my experience that few men, especially men in powerful positions, can deal with a powerful woman. It’s totally emasculating to them. That’s why there are so few women in positions of power. Sadly though wage disparity reaches across the spectrum of employment. From Senior Management to Store Clerks, men are paid more than women and the saddest aspect of it is that they expect to be paid more than women. I could write a book on what I’ve seen with my own eyes because i worked most of my career in Aerospace and Engineering, and honey let me tell ya, it’s man’s world.

    • Fannie says:

      At the same time, every single republican in the senate voted against equal pay for women.

  5. leefeller says:

    Code words do seem to fly around in a room with mixed company of bigots and racists and sexists… example is Sterling showing as the tip if the iceberg except without the code words?

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Sterling is a combination bigot, racist, sexist with a huge dash of privilege, arrogance and self-importance topped off with what sounds and looks like a guy who’s already taken a few giant steps down the path of dementia.

  6. RalphB says:

    tpm: Rubio Slams Liberals’ ‘Hypocrisy’ On Abortion, Climate Change

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday accused liberals of “hypocrisy” for criticizing him as a climate-change denier while “conveniently” ignoring what he called a scientific consensus that human life begins at conception. …

    This country really needs to stop electing morons!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Rubio is a putz who can’t finish a paragraph of pre-scripted speech without having to take a big gulp! At least Big Gulp Rubio kept his eyes on the camera

  7. Sweet Sue says:

    I’ve taken the NYT off my favorites list; they won’t even get my nine little clicks per month-as if I’d pay for mindless twaddle and real estate porn.
    Sulzberger can kiss my mercurial*ass!

    *I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

  8. RalphB says:

    Gay Marriages Now Off In Arkansas

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gay couples in Arkansas will not be able to get married even though the state Supreme Court upheld a ruling that struck down the ban on same-sex marriage because a separate law that prevents issuing marriage licenses to gays is still valid.

    In an unsigned order, the justices refused to put the ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza on hold. Even though they rejected the state’s request to suspend the ruling, though, their order will still prevent any other same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses in Arkansas, at least for now. …

    Court seems to have muddied the legal water in Arkansas, for now.

  9. RalphB says:

    Esquire: This is What Happens When You Challenge Gun Cultists

    And here’s what you can do about it.

    Lt Col Robert Bateman writing at Pierce’s blog.

  10. dakinikat says:

    Woman at the Top of the Masthead
    The media called her “brusque” and “polarizing.” But to young women at the New York Times, Jill Abramson was everything.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Jordan Weissmann at Slate: The New York Times Just Fired One Successful Editor

      Whatever the reasons for her abrupt departure, by pretty much any meaningful measure, Abramson seemed to be doing an excellent job piloting the Times into a bright digital future.

      Consider: Bill Keller led the paper from 2003 until mid-2011. During that time, its finances degenerated so thoroughly that the company was forced to borrow a glorified payday loan from Mexican oligarch Carlos Slim. Near the very end of Keller’s tenure, however, the Times finally began implementing the online paywall that’s resurrecting its business. It has almost 800,000 digital-only subscribers—the vast majority of whom have been acquired on Abramson’s watch—and is now turning a decent operating profit.

      Abramson also seemed committed to pushing the Times even harder on digital. She fully endorsed an internal report advising the paper to create a new senior editor position to handle growing the paper’s online audience. She even tried to take initiative and hire a digital head without consulting her managing editor, Dean Baquet—now her replacement—and this was reportedly one of the factors behind her undoing.

    • bostonboomer says:

      From the Amanda Hess story Dak linked to:

      Abramson’s presence allowed a new generation of women at the Times to begin to see a possible future in leadership at the paper, but it also helped disrupt the paper’s masculine approach to news coverage—and allowed the paper to benefit from scoops it wouldn’t otherwise get. Under Abramson, some of the paper’s biggest stories over the past three years were narrated by women. Jodi Kantor, tasked with covering the Obamas, told stories about women behind the campaign, from Sasha and Malia to Obama donor Penny Pritzker. Andrea Elliott illustrated the hopelessness of homelessness in America through the eyes of Dasani, a 12-year-old girl. The paper brought breast cancer to the front page with an arresting image that flouted the Times’ typically strict decency standards by showing the edge of a survivor’s areola. And after Abramson called a big roundtable meeting with female staffers to discuss how the paper could better cover women in its pages, the talk produced a number of leads that got into print. One standout was Amy O’Leary’s 2012 investigation into the sexual harassment female gamers face, a feature that predated widespread media reporting (including mine) over the problem of virtual sexual harassment. It’s not that these stories wouldn’t have appeared under other editors, but with a woman calling the shots—and explicitly courting stories about other women—female staffers at the Times told me that their perspectives felt more valued than ever.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Bob Cesca: This is How Edward Snowden Taught Glenn Greenwald to Hide From the NSA (video sent from Snowden to Greenwald before they met)

    Note at timecode 3:20, Snowden warns Greenwald about encryption and airport security in England, which Greenwald failed to consider before sending his spouse through Heathrow with encrypted materials.

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Huge oil spill in Los Angeles

    10,000-gallon crude oil spill in Atwater Village looked ‘like a lake’

  13. RalphB says:

    NYT: Workers Take to Streets to Calm Tense Ukrainian City

    MARIUPOL, Ukraine — In what could represent a decisive turning point in the Ukrainian conflict and a setback for Russia, thousands of steelworkers fanned out Thursday over the city of Mariupol, establishing control over the streets and routing the pro-Kremlin militants who seized control several weeks ago.

    By late Thursday, miners and steelworkers had deployed in at least five cities, including the regional capital, Donetsk, though they had not yet become the dominant force there that they are in Mariupol, the region’s second largest city and the site just last week of bloody confrontations between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militants. …

    Sounds like a good thing to me.

  14. bostonboomer says:

    For Delphyne:

  15. bostonboomer says:
  16. RalphB says:

    Oh please, no!

    • bostonboomer says:

      The worst part about Hillary running is having all these Bill hangers-on coming out of the woodwork. Lanny Davis is the worst of the bunch.

  17. dakinikat says:

    So, we have one pregnant woman to be killed as an apostate in Sudan and this woman that was murdered in the streets because her neighbors in a small Brazilian town saw a rumor on facebook that she was a witch …

  18. Fannie says:

    Last night, while watching this, my husband and I both fell out of our chairs This is what we are up against. When all was done and said, I took one long nice hot shower. I mean that made me feel dirty!

    • Fannie says:

      I was hoping to share Harley showing his patch on the his leather jacket that says “diddle diddle right down the middle”……….and that is who he is. HAHAHA.

    • NW Luna says:

      What rock did these people crawl out from under?