Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of The New York Times, was abruptly and unceremoniously fired on Wednesday, reportedly stunning The Grey Lady’s newsroom.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher and chairman, had a cryptic explanation for his cadre of confused journalists. “We had an issue with management in the newsroom,” he said. “And that’s what’s at the heart of this issue.”
But according to The New Yorker, Abramson may have offended her male bosses’ sensibilities by being too “pushy” over a wage gap between herself and the man who previously held the position as head editor. And “pushy” is hardly the harshest word recently used by colleagues to describe her.
A few weeks ago, Abramson discovered that her pay and pension benefits in both her most recent job as executive editor and previous role as managing editor did not measure up to the pay and benefits given to Bill Keller, the man she replaced in both jobs.
Perhaps inspired by the White House’s “War on Women” rhetoric, an unidentified associate of Abramson’s claimed she “confronted the top brass” about the pay disparity — a confrontation that supported management’s opinion of her as “pushy.”
“She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off,” another colleague told The New Yorker. While the difference in pay was reportedly corrected, it clearly came too late to make much of a difference for Abramson.
Rumors of Abramson’s abrasive relationship with her colleagues and subordinates are nothing new, and some of the criticism seems well deserved. But reports on her standing in The New York Times’ newsroom reveal what may be construed as a sexist double standard.
In April of 2013, Politico reported on an altercation between then-managing editor Dean Baquet and Abramson. Baquet expressed remorse that he became so angry in full view of his reporters, lamenting the message it might reinforce.
“I think there’s a really easy caricature that some people have bought into, of the bitchy woman character and the guy who is sort of calmer,” he explained at the time. “That, I think, is a little bit of an unfair caricature.”
Baquet was tapped to replace Abramson as top editor on Wednesday — suggesting that perhaps The New York Times’ management bought into that caricature more than he first assumed.
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