Why Jill Abramson Was Fired
In four posts on The New Yorker’s website, Ken covered the events surrounding the exit of the executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson.
At 2:36 p.m. on Wednesday, an announcement from the Times hit my e-mail, saying that [Dean] 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.
Another episode that added to the characterization of Abramson as hard to deal with came after a decision was made to hire a second managing editor to oversee the Times’ digital endeavors. Abramson led that hiring effort. The Times, in its story on Abramson’s dismissal, said that Abramson had offered the job to Janine Gibson, the editor of Guardian U.S., “without consulting” Dean Baquet, then the managing editor and now Abramson’s successor. This implies that Abramson was operating more or less in a vacuum, without consistent consultations with her colleagues, particularly Baquet. Gibson met separately with Sulzberger and Thompson on May 5th, and had lunch with Baquet that same day. What Baquet did not know, until Gibson herself mentioned it to him at lunch, I’m told, is that she was offered a managing-editor job comparable to his own. He was, it is fair to say, unenthusiastic, and even angered.
Almost from the start, Sulzberger and Abramson had difficult relations, which only frayed with time. Sulzberger, as he said in a public statement issued Saturday, heard repeated reports from people in the Times newsroom in the past few years that Abramson was given to repeated instances of “arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.” In a review of her performance as executive editor, he even told Abramson, not for the first time, that the way she was said to treat colleagues could not continue. It is true that Abramson was not necessarily any more peremptory or erratic than male predecessors like Raines or A. M. Rosenthal. At the same time, she was working in a more modern atmosphere in which there is a greater expectation that executives will be more considerate. Still, there is a legitimate question, one that some women at the Times have raised, about whether a man with similar behavior would be viewed the same way.
Editors, Abramson among them, are not meant to be popular. Their task sometimes is to tell reporters or editors that their work needs improvement, that they need a second and a third source, that they need another rewrite. But, when an editor loses the trust of so many members of her team and of management, the owner has the last word.