All the Theories on Why Abramson Got the Boot
Unequal pay? Being 'pushy'? One thing is clear: It was a shock
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2014 7:30 AM CDT
The New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson attends the 2010 Matrix Awards presented by the New York Women in Communications at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in this Monday, April 19, 2010 file photo...   (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

(Newser) – It's still not officially clear why Jill Abramson got abruptly booted as executive editor of the New York Times, but theories certainly abound:

  • Abramson knew her days were numbered, sources tell Gabriel Sherman at Daily Intelligencer, but everyone was "shocked" at how quickly the end came, says one high-level editor. Everyone is speculating about what was behind the move—but "the unbelievable thing is that there actually is no ‘cause’ for this—no single thing, nothing," says one colleague. "It was just a lot of accumulated backbiting." She and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. didn't get along even before she became executive editor, sources say, and things only got worse after. Particularly problematic: Abramson's contentious relationship with new CEO Mark Thompson as well as the deputy who would eventually replace her, Dean Baquet.
  • At the New Yorker, Ken Auletta thinks pay disparity was the big reason—Abramson recently learned her pay and pension benefits were less than those of Bill Keller, whom she replaced as both managing editor and, later, executive editor. "She confronted the top brass," and they didn't react well, says a source.
  • But the Times itself denies that; a spokesperson tells Politico, "Jill's total compensation as executive editor was not less than Bill Keller's, so that is just incorrect."

  • David Carr and Ravi Somaiya covered the story for the Times, and they also cite "serious tension" between Abramson and Sulzberger and "clashes" with Baquet, particularly over hiring decisions. But don't expect any official word from either Abramson or the Times; the article reports that a settlement prevents both sides from talking.
  • A running theme through many articles on the matter is that Abramson was disliked for being "pushy." Ruchika Tulshyan addresses that in Forbes, noting, "That word—loaded and undeniably gendered—speaks to the deeper issues women face when they demand anything."
  • At the New Republic, Rebecca Traister notes that it's possible Abramson was fired for performance issues—there have been rumblings that she was—but even so, the way it played out was "harsh and humiliating," and it "made me hope that eventually we will learn that she was stealing from the company cash register," Traister writes. "Because that’s pretty much the only crime I can think of that would merit as swift and brutal an exit."

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Roddy Pfeiffer
May 16, 2014 12:04 AM CDT
If she was in any way resistant to going digital, that would be a good reason. Paper media is becoming extinct.
May 15, 2014 7:16 PM CDT
In the movie "The Butler" the title character learns that the black White House staff receives lower wages than the white staff. When he addresses it with his boss, the boss says that if he isn't happy, perhaps he should work elsewhere. As a woman, the same thing was said to me when I pushed for higher pay. For the employer, it isn't about the money. The employer has an amount they pay certain people (women, blacks, immigrants). If you're one of "those" people, you get that amount, irrespective of your skills, education or contribution. At one company, a male colleague received three times my pay. I tried several times for an increase. The response was: Don't like it. Leave. When I left, they replaced me with three women. They didn't care what it cost to replace me. They had a figure for what women made at that company, and that was that. My next employer paid me at a secretarial rate, but I wasn't a secretary. I was managing projects. Finally, when I could make no progress on the pay issue, I walked off the job for a week. When they couldn't replace me, and the projects weren't happening, they finally tossed me a few thousand, but it was still really inadequate. I've also had interviewers tell me, "We can't pay you that. We pay our best MEN that."
Chris Farley
May 15, 2014 10:51 AM CDT
Or the big one that she demanded equal pay....