The morning after the New York Times announced that it had let go Jill Abramson, its first female executive editor, the Internet has offered a few theories about the motivations Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. didn’t elaborate on.
Sulzberger told his newsroom that Abramson’s departure was an issue of “newsroom management style,” which some on Twitter took as a sexist motivation given Abramson’s reputation in some corners of the press as “bitchy” and “unpopular.”
With a new day comes fresh leads and speculation, with the New Yorker and The Atlantic leading the pack with off-the-record claims that Abramson was fired after “confronting the top brass” about her pension and pay being significantly less than her predecessor, Bill Keller’s.
The claims have only galvanized theories originated by Slate’s Hanna Rosin last year that the higher-ups at the Times couldn’t deal with Abramson’s personality and fired her, essentially, for being difficult.
“The Women’s Media Center found that men still dominate the media industry, from bylines to leadership positions to editorial page writers to guests on the Sunday news shows,” Palmer wrote. “The stats help explain why there was such a visceral reaction to Abramson’s fall and (Natalie) Nougayrede’s departure Wednesday among many women in the field.” Nougayrede, managing editor of the French newspaper Le Monde, reportedly resigned amid a newsroom rebellion over the paper's future.
“Abramson had drawn criticism for her sometimes harsh personality, but certainly it was no harsher than the treatment handed her by former patrons,” John F. Harris wrote on Politico. “Mid publicity, fueled largely by not-for-attribution complaints, about an allegedly remote and imperious management style, Abramson’s defenders asked whether such adjectives would have been hurled at a male editor. According to Capital New York, a sister publication of POLITICO, women at Tuesday’s staff meeting expressed concern to Sulzberger, who responded that as women get promoted into historically male jobs, they will also occasionally get fired from them.”
Besides talk of what this means for journalism and the Times, Vox is calling for a change in the way companies keep employee’s pay close to the vest.
“(Abramson) was fired not long after she started asking questions about the amount that she had been paid, over the course of her career in NYT senior management, compared to the amount that her male predecessor was paid,” Felix Salmon wrote. “Since companies tend to be run by people who earn a lot of money, the result is a culture of silence and secrecy when it comes to pay. Such a culture clearly served the NYT ill in this case.”