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“an issue with management in the newsroom"
May 15, 2014 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson - the first woman to hold that position for the paper - was unexpectedly fired, reportedly because she attempted to bring on a new co-managing editor without consulting the managing editor already at the paper or the publisher, though there is also a persistent rumor that it was because she addressed a pay gap between herself and her predecessor. Today, the first woman managing editor for French paper Le Monde resigned, claiming that she was being undermined, drawing more attention to journalism and media's woman problem.

(the title is publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr's reason for Abramson's firing)
posted by troika (138 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably worth linking The New Yorker's Ken Auletta, who was the original source for the gendered pay gap rumor: Why Jill Abramson Was Fired.

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.”

posted by mediareport at 8:55 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


[Oops, sorry, missed it in the original post. Worth pulling out the quote, though.]
posted by mediareport at 8:58 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


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;

Financially beleaguered and newspaper are redundant.

And, there are tons of businesses that could retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits. (Who else besides corporate bigwigs even get pensions anymore?)
posted by Melismata at 9:00 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


So the takeaway for women is don't make a fuss about the pittance we pay you else you're out of the whole job and can now take home zero?

Today's world offers only too many opportunities for women in media or journalism to set up their own platforms or even, women only business and financial news media. About time if you ask me.
posted by infini at 9:00 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


How to Attack the Gender Wage Gap? Speak Up
posted by almostmanda at 9:01 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Rumors and unevidenced speculation do not make for an appropriate topic of outrage.
posted by shivohum at 9:02 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Today's world offers only too many opportunities for women in media or journalism to set up their own platforms or even, women only business and financial news media. About time if you ask me.

The NYT made huge strides into digital media while she was at the helm. I would expect her to land somewhere else and do the same or possibly even start her own company.
posted by photoslob at 9:03 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain how much the performance of a particular executive editor affects me, a reader? How much better or worse could the NYT be right now if someone else had the job during Abramson's tenure?

How much does the executive editor at NYT make, generally speaking? How much should they make, generally speaking?

What will Jill Abramson do next?

Is Baquet's promotion more of a triumph for blacks than Abramson's firing is a setback for women?
posted by michaelh at 9:04 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why the pay thing, but not the "hired a managing editor" thing, is a "rumor," since it seems to be sourced the same way as everything else about this decision -- through unnamed sources at the Times. If it's true, they're unlikely to confirm it in an official statement. It's not so much a rumor as it is reporting by reporters.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:05 AM on May 15 [17 favorites]


Today's world offers only too many opportunities for women in media or journalism to set up their own platforms or even, women only business and financial news media. About time if you ask me.

I mean, sure, but then you have to pay yourself instead of keeping a job at a pre-existing business with things like a payroll office and support for your work. As I keep being told by conservatives, equal pay and rights are covered under the laws we have so she shouldn't HAVE to do that if she doesn't want to.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:05 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


"Retreating" on pay shouldn't mean having a pattern of paying women less. If that that turns out to be the case, then shame on the publisher and I'd hope to see a lawsuit.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:06 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure why the pay thing, but not the "hired a managing editor" thing, is a "rumor,"
I have it up there as "reportedly," but even so, that's inconsistent framing on my part. Apologies.
posted by troika at 9:10 AM on May 15


and it's not just that she was making less than the dude who came before her - she was also rumored to be making less than a former deputy editor.
posted by nadawi at 9:12 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


It's important to remember recent history here. The issue might take on a little more depth when you remember that the NYT's former CEO, Janet Robinson, was also unexpectedly forced out by Sulzberger in 2011, because both Sulzberger's girlfriend and cousin didn't like her, according to this summary at Poynter:

Report: Janet Robinson’s firing exposes deep veins of strife within New York Times

Former New York Times CEO Janet Robinson was fired, Joe Hagan reports, after tangling with Ochs-Sulzberger family members, Arthur ­Sulzberger Jr.’s girlfriend and the Times’ digital guru...

Robinson clashed with Times digital macher Martin Nisenholtz, who opposed introducing a paywall last year and retired in December. But he’d been weakened in the corporate suite because he oversaw About.com, a content farm that hadn’t foreseen how changes in Google’s search algorithm would affect its ability to successfully game search-engines.

Even though the paywall worked, Sulzberger’s girlfriend, Claudia Gonzalez, didn’t like Robinson’s style. And his cousin Michael Golden became a competitor for Robinson’s job after the company sold its Regional Media Group, which Golden had run. Golden wanted the company to sell The Boston Globe — Robinson didn’t — and push out Robinson, Hagan writes, which would also free up cash so The New York Times Company could resume paying dividends to Ochs-Sulzberger family members, who control its stock.

Robinson moved back against Golden, putting Sulzberger in a hard place:
By crossing a sacred family line, Robinson gave Golden the opening he needed to assert himself. Golden, an agent of his family’s unhappiness, and a man looking for a larger role, became directly involved in Robinson’s exit. In the past, Sulzberger had the authority to keep Golden and the rest of his family at arm’s length. Now, with the business struggling and his absences very much a matter of internal discussion, he was no longer in a position to protect Robinson — and, maybe just as important, he had lost the will to do so. His girlfriend didn’t like her. He had lost his digital guru because of her. And now his cousin wanted her gone, too. Sulzberger was up against the wall.
Sulzberger fired Robinson on Dec. 9...

posted by mediareport at 9:14 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


As I keep being told by conservatives, equal pay and rights are covered under the laws we have so she shouldn't HAVE to do that if she doesn't want to.

We're not there yet though and I guess I'm just speaking from my background/generation, of Imma tired of the fight, you kids take over, Imma gonna take a backseat now and pay myself a sabbatical.
posted by infini at 9:15 AM on May 15


I doubt there would be a lawsuit considering she was paid a severance and signed something saying she wouldn't talk about the dismissal.

Seems like quite a few people had it in for her as there's been numerous stories over the last few years about turmoil in her newsroom. With that said, as someone who's worked in a few newsrooms the executive editor is the person at the top who has to make hard decisions. I've only worked with male exec eds and every one of them have been difficult at times. It's their job. Makes me question how gender would play into the criticism of Abramson and if she would have been thought of differently if she were a he.
posted by photoslob at 9:16 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Jim Naureckas for FAIR: Will NYT's New Editor Stand Up for Investigative Journalism?
posted by RogerB at 9:19 AM on May 15


“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.”
I think it goes beyond a "gendered" characterization, into a "minority" characterization. I've been trying to get the brass at work to address the gap between my wage and that of some coworkers. I can't help but feel that if I were a local-bred guy (instead of a dude with a foreign degree) things would be different, it's not like there's a gap between the quantity and quality of my work and that of others.

And although I haven't been actually called pushy, I can definitely tell it's on their minds judging by the attitude with which my concerns have been "received". Sorry it this is a little deraily but just wanted to mention there's many of us in the same boat.
posted by papafrita at 9:30 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Not that the possibility of her getting fired in any part because she brought up the pay gap isn't enough to be outraged about, but if you're interested at all in the quality of the paper, the fact that she was also clashing with the C.E.O. not only over things like native advertising but also possibly because she angered him by pursuing stories about the Jimmy Saville cover-up does not bode well.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:31 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


(the title is publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr's reason for Abramson's firing)

I've got an idea for a branded version of Clue.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:56 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


It sure sounds like she was fired for acting like she was executive editor of the New York Times. With a side of not treating Pinch's (male) pals with the deference he thought proper.
posted by tavella at 9:57 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


Amanda Hess at Slate: Jill Abramson was everything to young women at the New York Times
posted by troika at 10:08 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


I was not a huge fan of Abramson but she was vastly better than the unspeakably cretinous Bill Keller. And it sounds like her unpopularity with her bosses was due to her strengths much more than her weaknesses. So, not a very encouraging sign for the Times. (And they are going to go all-in on more online video!? Are you kidding me? Who watches that crap? Every now and then I click on something I think will be an article and it's one of those stupid videos and I feel like I've been had.)
posted by enn at 10:17 AM on May 15 [29 favorites]


also possibly because she angered him by pursuing stories about the Jimmy Saville cover-up does not bode well

Yeah, the Wall Street Journal makes a lot of that too (in an article that's coincidentally not behind its usual paywall, imagine that), as does this gossipy account from NY Mag, which quotes folks saying it wasn't one thing but "just a lot of accumulated backbiting" and asserts the relationship between Sulzberger and Abramson was "doomed from the start," then goes on to point the finger at Abramson's child sexual abuse cover-up investigation of Sulzberger's pick to replace Janet Robinson:

After a prolonged search in which the Times was without a CEO, casting an uncomfortable spotlight on Sulzberger, he finally chose former BBC director general Mark Thompson. After Thompson had been hired for the job but before he’d started, Abramson sent Matthew Purdy, a hard-charging investigative reporter, to London to examine Thompson's role in the Jimmy Savile scandal at the BBC. Abramson’s relationship with the two executives never recovered. “Mark Thompson was fucking pissed,” a source explained. “He was really angry with the Purdy stuff.” So was Sulzberger. “He was livid, in a very passive-aggressive way. These were a set of headaches Jill had created for Arthur.”

Seems plausible, but I don't see how Abramson had any choice but to report sharply on the accusation that the new NYT CEO pick might have covered up child sexual abuse at the BBC. It was an obvious credibility issue that needed to be addressed. I'd bet this part was more important:

Sulzberger had brought Thompson in to be a turnaround artist, rethinking the newspaper’s role in a media world evolving at hyperspeed. But Thompson's role as house philosopher grated on Abramson. A particular flashpoint was Thompson’s emphasis on video. Abramson was skeptical. “Jill does not like video,” a person familiar with her thinking told me. “She thought there is nothing more boring than two print people talking in front of a camera about a story you can you read in a minute.”

Although both have denied it in public, Thompson and Abramson’s relationship spiraled down over the past year, as Thompson pressed ahead with plans to move the Times into native advertising. “She was morally opposed to that,” an executive said. “She told me it would not happen on her watch.” “She conflicted directly with Thompson on numerous occasions,” an Abramson colleague said.

posted by mediareport at 10:26 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Weigel: "All I have to add concerns this nugget from Gabriel Sherman's report on the firing. After Mark Thompson was hired from the BBC to work for the Times, and after Abramson sent an investigative reporter to vet him, the two kept clashing.
Thompson's role as house philosopher grated on Abramson. A particular flashpoint was Thompson’s emphasis on video. Abramson was skeptical. “Jill does not like video,” a person familiar with her thinking told me. “She thought there is nothing more boring than two print people talking in front of a camera about a story you can you read in a minute.” ,
This is just obviously true.

[snip]... most elite newspaper video content is terribly boring, for the reasons Abramson apparently cited. The great forgotten whiff of 2013 must have been PostTV, a channel with an-house studio built for its use, stuffed with live content and original programming that was supposed to be the "ESPN of politics." It consisted of reporters talking to each other about stories in the paper and talking to guests who rarely gave the startup intra-paper network enough time to get really interesting. It wasn't any different than the other, little-noticed video features on smaller political news sites."

Emphasis mine. Yes, I am tired of video.
posted by spaltavian at 10:32 AM on May 15 [19 favorites]


NYTimes' online video features have been pretty good. Some quick reporting, some nice retrospectives, some pretty creative features.

Definitely different from reporters yammering at a camera.
posted by entropone at 10:37 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Dear CEOs: If AT ANY TIME IN THE RECENT PAST you have had credible, or worse yet, successful lawsuits brought against your corporation for discrimination, the BARE MINIMUM amount of planning to avoid the appearance of impropriety you should do is to make DAMN SURE that new hires aren't paid less than their WASP-male equivalents. Period.

It's not rocket science. It's not even Econ 101. Paying her an equitable salary, with equitable benefits, is FAR cheaper than all the negative PR you're about to endure, along with the legal costs, and then, if she actually sues and wins, oh god will you regret your failure to do the BARE MINIMUM.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:42 AM on May 15 [12 favorites]


How are salaries set? Are they upfront about the exact amount that will be paid or is there negotiation involved?
posted by I-baLL at 10:44 AM on May 15


Yeah, this video of Jacques Pepin making an omelette is great.
posted by notyou at 10:44 AM on May 15


My husband is graduating from his Master's program this weekend, and we've been considering whether our NYT subscription was worth continuing once the half-price student deal was up for some time now. The timing of the Abramson firing made it an easy decision, and comments in this thread about some of the issues involved (like her investigative reporting) are giving me the sense it was the right call.

And I do mean call! The Times requires you to call on the phone to cancel your subscription, presumably as a deterrent. When asked why he was cancelling, my husband mentioned the Abramson firing to the (female) operator. She didn't sound surprised or pursue it further.

It's a tiny protest, but I can't be sorry we made it.
posted by immlass at 10:50 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


The Abramson situation is not exactly similar to Natalie Nougayrède's resignation. Abramson probably pissed off the wrong people, or (and?) was mistreated. But Nougayrède was voted into her position at Le Monde by 80% of her peers just 14 months ago, not appointed by upper management. Her predecessor had collapsed and died at work.

Last week, there was a mass resignation of seven editors (out of 11) at the paper over "a communications breakdown with management" which to all accounts was a direct protest against both Nougayrède's management style and her attempts to combine the print and online editions of the paper.
posted by zarq at 11:02 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Baquet has been up for this job several times before... originally he lost it to Howell Raines

I think Abramson's big mistake was probably sending investigators to look into Thompson's possible role in the Savile scandal at BBC. Thus she had no ally above her.

The Times certainly should be paying all executives and employees in general less than in the past and since it seems like she was aware that her bosses' satisfaction with her was already shaky at best, she shouldn't have made an issue of it, as if she's entitled to escape any pain of her industry's ongoing disaster because she's a woman.
posted by knoyers at 11:03 AM on May 15


Paying her an equitable salary, with equitable benefits, is FAR cheaper than all the negative PR you're about to endure, along with the legal costs, and then, if she actually sues and wins, oh god will you regret your failure to do the BARE MINIMUM.

I dunno. This shit happens every day, and there's only a trickle of cases that get reported on as newsworthy and/or get far in the legal system. And remember, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was only passed 5 years ago, with three votes from male Republicans in the entire US Congress, of which exactly zero came from the Senate (unless you count Spector, who later switched parties). It hasn't really hurt them just yet. The business community is still pretty well inoculated from being sexist assholes in both a legal and political sense.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:04 AM on May 15


I think Abramson's big mistake was probably sending investigators to look into Thompson's possible role in the Savile scandal at BBC. Thus she had no ally above her.

In terms of career politics, it was a mistake. Journalistically, it it was the only possible correct action, and if Sulzberger can't see that, it doesn't speak well of his judgement.
posted by enn at 11:10 AM on May 15 [16 favorites]


The Public Editor is a relatively new addition to the idea of the Times, perhaps in response tweetable letters to the editor. She weighs in on Abramson's positive contributions to the paper, among them no scandal (that's a low bar); more female hires; and dealing with weather disasters.

Another place to follow breaking journalism stories is jimromenesko.com. Here's one from a NYState inside-government blog: Sulzberger speaks on pay-gap flap: It is ‘not true’ that Jill Abramson was paid ‘significantly’ less than her predecessor, he writes in staff note.
"It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors," Sulzberger wrote this afternoon in a memo to staff obtained by Capital. "Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.
posted by Jesse the K at 11:22 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Can we now stop referring to the NYT as a "Liberal" newspaper?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:22 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


That's a pretty strong denial. I wonder if she'll comment?
posted by Justinian at 11:26 AM on May 15


The Times article about her firing mentions a settlement, so that would seem to rule out a lawsuit.
posted by indubitable at 11:27 AM on May 15


Agreed, oneswellfoop. They did some nasty things in Manhattan a decade ago involving eminent domain and land-grabbing small businesses.
posted by Melismata at 11:27 AM on May 15


"It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors," Sulzberger wrote this afternoon in a memo to staff obtained by Capital. "Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors.

It's hard not to read this without raising an eyebrow at the specificity in word choice:

"Compensation," rather than salary; "not...significantly less" rather than 'not less'; and, finally arriving at salary, her pay is "comparable," rather than actually comparing it and saying it was equal or higher.

Salzurberger is notably not saying that she was paid more than Bill Keller. Total compensation may be a better measure to use than pay, but if her complaint was about her salary then talking about things that aren't part of her salary doesn't exactly refute her complaint:

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.
posted by cjelli at 11:31 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


cjelli: " "Compensation," rather than salary; "not...significantly less" rather than 'not less'; and, finally arriving at salary, her pay is "comparable," rather than actually comparing it and saying it was equal or higher. "

The note from Sulzberger says that her pension was lower because she hadn't worked as many years at the company as some of her predecessors. Which is true with regard to Keller. If her pension was lower and her total compensation was 10% higher than Keller's in his final year as Exec Ed, then her salary must have been higher.
posted by zarq at 11:42 AM on May 15


Unless her compensation includes additional factors other than salary and pension benefits.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


That's my reading as well. Pension should be lower if you haven't worked at a company as long.
posted by Justinian at 11:43 AM on May 15


I think it's a little early to be cranking up the outrage machine when there's so little decent reporting on the issue yet. At this point we're dealing with a bunch of rumors, many of which point in very different directions.

I'd be really surprised if the pay thing turned out to be the real heart of the issue. It's not as if she walked off the job in protest--she was fired. If Sulzberger was happy with her work, any pay issues could have been resolved. There's some deeper unhappiness at work here and we just do not yet know what it was. It may turn out to be something deeply discreditable to Sulzberger or it may not. I think we should wait until we actually know something before nailing out colors to any particular mast.
posted by yoink at 11:45 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


her pay is "comparable," rather than actually comparing it and saying it was equal or higher.

Er:
in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.
Isn't that "comparing it and saying it was equal or higher"?
posted by yoink at 11:47 AM on May 15


oneswellfoop: "Can we now stop referring to the NYT as a "Liberal" newspaper?"

Yeah, they've never been a "liberal" newspaper. However, some of their reporting and their editorial page over the years have skewed towards the left. That was the complaint levied by Brisbane in his final column.

But look what we have to compare them to. The Post is a right-wing rag. The WSJ is very right wing. The Daily News skews right. During the NY Sun's brief resurrection, it was a neo-con rag. Compared to them, the Times is far more moderate and even-handed.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Isn't that "comparing it and saying it was equal or higher"?

Only as long as her compensation was only salary & pension, which is an inference. Admittedly, a reasonable inference -- I'm just curious if it's a correct inference, because it's one way to reconcile the reported complaint about a pay gap with the dismissal of that complaint as factually untrue.
posted by cjelli at 11:58 AM on May 15


“Jill does not like video,” a person familiar with her thinking told me. “She thought there is nothing more boring than two print people talking in front of a camera about a story you can you read in a minute.”

Although both have denied it in public, Thompson and Abramson’s relationship spiraled down over the past year, as Thompson pressed ahead with plans to move the Times into native advertising. “She was morally opposed to that,” an executive said. “She told me it would not happen on her watch.” “She conflicted directly with Thompson on numerous occasions,” an Abramson colleague said.


This woman shouldn't have been fired, she should have been nominated for sainthood. The Times has done some good video features. But video is just labor intensive by nature, because all of a sudden you've got to think about lighting and sound and retakes and angles. It's easy enough to do more video --- plop a couple reporters in front of cameras in your in-house studio and have them do talking head bits. It's really time consuming and effortful to do more good video, and I can't but think it would inevitably suck resources from other priorities, like investigative reporting. The world does not need more shitty talking head video, and every second reporters spend doing that shit is a second they're not spending news-gathering.
posted by Diablevert at 11:58 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Only as long as her compensation was only salary & pension

I don't follow. Sulzberger's phrase is "total compensation package." If she received any compensation that was in addition to "salary and pension" it would have to be included in her "total compensation package." I mean, either Sulzberger is flat out lying (which would be a remarkably dumb thing to do in a case like this) or she was being paid more than Bill Keller was paid--no matter which way you slice "being paid."
posted by yoink at 12:01 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm curious if "total compensation package" includes "amounts we spent on health insurance", because I could easily see salary + pension being lower than her predecessor, with insurance rates being much, much higher for the same plan.
posted by jeather at 12:01 PM on May 15 [7 favorites]


Why would the insurance rates for a 60 year old woman be vastly higher than for a 65 year old man?
posted by Justinian at 12:08 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


yoink: " I don't follow. Sulzberger's phrase is "total compensation package." If she received any compensation that was in addition to "salary and pension" it would have to be included in her "total compensation package." I mean, either Sulzberger is flat out lying (which would be a remarkably dumb thing to do in a case like this) or she was being paid more than Bill Keller was paid--no matter which way you slice "being paid.""

The question raised by cjelli was whether her salary was higher or lower than Keller's. Her total compensation was higher than his. Her salary is only one element of her total compensation.

If her total compensation was solely pension benefits + salary, then since her pension benefits were lower than Keller's her salary must be higher.

If her total compensation was pension benefits + salary + other, then knowing the value of the "other" would determine whether her salary was higher than Keller's
posted by zarq at 12:16 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Why would the insurance rates for a 60 year old woman be vastly higher than for a 65 year old man?

I imagine the thought was related to general medical inflation, not to the specific individuals involved.

I think some people here are imagining WAY too low a ballpark for these salaries, by the way. Unless I'm very much mistaken, we're not in the kind of area where medical insurance is a meaningful fraction of the total compensation package.
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


jeather: "I'm curious if "total compensation package" includes "amounts we spent on health insurance", because I could easily see salary + pension being lower than her predecessor, with insurance rates being much, much higher for the same plan."

The cost/value of her health insurance is probably negligible compared to everything else in her compensation package.
posted by zarq at 12:19 PM on May 15


If her total compensation was pension benefits + salary + other, then knowing the value of the "other" would determine whether her salary was higher than Keller's

Why would we care? At that level, people negotiate not just "salary" but the way they want to receive it. If Keller got $N in "salary" and Abramson--for tax purposes or whatever the hell--chose instead to pitch for $less-than-N in "salary" and $Y in "other"--for a total of $greater-than-N, then she's getting paid more than Keller was. It isn't particularly relevant what the individual chunks of that compensation package were called.
posted by yoink at 12:20 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Someone asked upthread how this affects NYT readers. To those who are curious, I think the Hess piece in Slate does a good job discussing how some of the hires Abramson made and the stories she promoted made it a better paper. Here's part of it, emphasis mine:

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.
posted by kat518 at 12:22 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


“Jill does not like video,” a person familiar with her thinking told me. “She thought there is nothing more boring than two print people talking in front of a camera about a story you can you read in a minute.”

She is my hero.

If I wanted your website to make noise, I would lick my finger and rub it on the screen.

Not to mention that my computer at work doesn't even have speakers....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:23 PM on May 15 [28 favorites]


if this is true :
I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained.

what she was making when she left isn't the salary discrepancy we're talking about. it could very well be that she complained, got a lawyer involved, they capitulated, and then found another reason to let her go for being "pushy."
posted by nadawi at 12:33 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Sharp piece from Rebecca Traister at TNR:

I Sort of Hope We Find Out That Jill Abramson Was Robbing the Cash Register - Trying to explain a singularly humiliating firing

It includes links to news of a study from just a few weeks ago, Why Women CEOs Get Fired More Often, and to this claim from Yglesias at Vox, The Jill Abramson-era New York Times was a business success. The chatter is only going to increase over the next few days, of course, but I do like Traister's focus: she compares this firing with the firing of Howell Raines in 2003:

Abramson’s firing was among the most harsh and humiliating I’ve ever seen play out in the media's recent history...When staffers reportedly expressed concern that Abramson’s firing would be a blow to women, he helpfully explained that that women in top management positions are just as likely to be fired as men in top management positions.

Actually, they’re more likely to be fired, but otherwise: sure! And while I prefer my explanation of how gender equity is not always about shining successes delivered by Bella Abzug—who once said that the feminist struggle “is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel”—I take Sulzberger’s point: that everything being equal, if Abramson was not great at her job, that job should not be protected any more zealously just because she is a woman. Right.

Except of course that not everything is equal and the The New York Times has, over the years, played host to any number of schlemiels, none of whom have been kicked to the curb quite so rudely as Abramson was on Wednesday...

The last editor to be forced out by the Times, Howell Raines, was someone who, like Abramson, did not always enjoy a fuzzy reputation within the newsroom. “Howell ruled by fear,” was how one source described his tenure in 2003. Raines was forced out after it was discovered that one of his reporter protégées, Jayson Blair, had been fabricating stories. But even in the midst of the tumult over Blair, Sulzberger remained affectionate toward Raines, at one point handing him a stuffed moose. When Raines finally left the paper, it was with an address to the staff; his wife was present. In the paper’s report about the departures of Raines and his deputy Gerald Boyd, Sulzberger was quoted as wanting to “applaud Howell and Gerald for putting the interests of this newspaper…above their own.”

Observing the sharp contrast between this kinder, gentler transition and the cold glee with which Abramson was tossed on her ass today made me hope that eventually we will learn that she was stealing from the company cash register.

posted by mediareport at 12:35 PM on May 15 [13 favorites]


I think what's driving the curiosity at this point is not so much "Why did she lose her gig?", which happens to people all the time. It's "Why did it happen this way," because this kind of firing -- where you're immediately washed off the masthead, you don't get a chance to say goodbye, and nobody even takes a moment to recognize your accomplishments -- does not happen nearly as often. To my ear, that's what a lot of the curiosity at least in media circles is about. People come and go, but this feels different enough that it makes people speculate about what could have led up to it. That's why it's hard to swallow "nobody was mad, it was just some concerns about her management of the newsroom" as the entire explanation. It feels ... personal, in some way, because of how it was done, and people are curious about why.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:36 PM on May 15 [16 favorites]


yoink: "Why would we care?

I can't speak to that. But I can explain why an employee might care.

Taxes. Salary is taxable. Compensation often is not.

Salary is still the base negotiating term for applicants at any job because it represents an industry standard. Employee worth is still calculated by comparing their salaries to their peers, and one's salary at a previous job can affect how one is paid at their next. This is one of the reasons why gender bias and the gender gap is traditionally judged with regard to monetary income, rather than compensation benefits.

Also, typically, the more perks a job offers, the lower the base salary.

At that level, people negotiate not just "salary" but the way they want to receive it.

Most companies offer specific packages, with only limited flexibility. Even at that level.

Depending on the industry and management level, base salary for an employee may also be kept low, while additional compensation may merely be potential income. In the form of bonuses, it may be dependent on one's individual or department performance, In the form of stocks compensation may be dependent on whether the company does well as a whole.

If Keller got $N in "salary" and Abramson--for tax purposes or whatever the hell--chose instead to pitch for $N, then she's getting paid more than Keller was. It isn't particularly relevant what the individual chunks of that compensation package were called."

Sure it does.
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


what she was making when she left isn't the salary discrepancy we're talking about. it could very well be that she complained, got a lawyer involved, they capitulated, and then found another reason to let her go for being "pushy."

That sounds like a pretty implausible scenario to me. But we also have this, from the Times Public Editor's column:
I also asked The Times’s spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, if the parity referred to in the email below occurred after a complaint. “No, absolutely not,” she said. “There was no such adjustment. That’s false.”
That's a pretty unequivocal statement. If it's a lie, it's a very stupid lie.
posted by yoink at 12:41 PM on May 15


I can't speak to that. But I can explain why an employee might care.

Taxes. Salary is taxable. Compensation often is not.


So you're saying that we're worrying now that Abramson may have been paid a higher salary than Keller, but that a larger proportion of his "total compensation" may have been in some way tax sheltered, so that, after taxes, he was netting a higher amount?

That's getting pretty far into the weeds of speculation, but, sure, let's go for it. What, though, is Sulzberger's incentive to offer such a package to Keller and not to Abramson? I mean, the employee's tax exposure doesn't change anything about how much it costs Sulzberger to pay them. Frankly, right now the only things we have suggesting that there was a pay disparity are "I heard it from a friend of a friend." We have a blunt declaration from Sulzberger that the claim is false. We also have a blunt declaration from the Times spokesperson that the claim the salary was adjusted in response to a complaint is false. Absent further reporting I can't see why we're giving any credence to the complaint about compensation differences at all at this point.

There were complaints about Abramson's management style dating back several years. There has clearly been a long history of friction about the management of the newsroom. It seems far more reasonable to assume that those frictions were behind the firing than to invent a dispute over pay for which we have absolutely no good evidence whatsoever.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on May 15


If Keller got $N in "salary" and Abramson--for tax purposes or whatever the hell--chose instead to pitch for $N, then she's getting paid more than Keller was. It isn't particularly relevant what the individual chunks of that compensation package were called.

It's relevant insofar as Abramson's complaint was that her salary and her pension was both lower than Keller's, so I find it doubtful that she would have 'for tax purposes' asked for a lower salary and then turned around to complain about a lower salary. That would be odd.
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...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
Maybe Abramson's complaint about salary doesn't matter because she received other compensation that outweighed any actual difference in pay, as evidenced by Salzburger's memo; but what's unclear is whether Abramson's actual complaint was accurate -- was her salary lower than Keller's or higher? Salzburger's memo doesn't say.
posted by cjelli at 12:50 PM on May 15


So you're saying that we're worrying now

'Worrying' no, not really, nor outraged; 'curious.' There are a lot of rumors flying around and a paucity of facts. And so: questions.
posted by cjelli at 12:51 PM on May 15


The NYT stock price was 50% higher at EOY 2013 than it was at EOY 2010, not sure how that plays into the compensation conversation. When people get stock as part of their compensation/bonuses, is that expressed contractually in terms of number of shares, or $ value?
posted by yarrow at 12:53 PM on May 15


Times Issues Response on Abramson Pay

“Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation. The reason — the only reason — for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment.”

Ms. Abramson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suggestion that a disparity in pay played a role in her departure arose Wednesday night, when Ken Auletta of The New Yorker posted an item online...

In his note to the staff, Mr. Sulzberger rebutted this suggestion. “It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors,′′ he wrote. “Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10 percent higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as executive editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.”

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:55 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


what's unclear is whether Abramson's actual complaint was accurate

No, what's unclear at this point is whether she ever, in fact, made any such complaint.

By the way, if any of you are wondering what I'm referring re longstanding complaints about Abramson's management style. Here's a link to the Politico piece from 2013 on the subject.

Some of the "this came completely out of the blue" comments are just ill-informed. We knew there was strife in the newsroom and that there were complaints about her as a manager long before today. Now, were those complaints fair or unfair? Were they cases of things being criticized in a woman that would be praised or tolerated in a man? Those all seem fair questions to me. But so far as I can see, unless we get much better reporting on the issue than we have so far, the compensation issue seems to be a red herring.
posted by yoink at 12:55 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I don't know what battle you think you're fighting, yoink, but all of the links in the original post reference the past complaints about her style, and almost all link that Politico piece. You're tilting at windmills a bit here.
posted by mediareport at 12:57 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


People who are saying it came out of the blue are not saying there had never been issues (although I'm surprised that if the anonymous sources discussing a pay disparity constitute no evidence at all, the anonymous sources in the Politico piece are automatically credible). They are saying that in a building full of journalists, it is very unusual for everyone's boss to be suddenly gone with no chance to speak to them, no farewell, no cake, no kind words. That's what's meant by discussions about abruptness. Nobody who follows this stuff enough to care missed the Politico piece.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:59 PM on May 15 [16 favorites]


You're tilting at windmills a bit here.

No, I'm trying to point out that the "salary compensation" thing is, so far as we can tell, a "windmill," not a giant, as most of the commentators in this thread seem to assume.
posted by yoink at 1:01 PM on May 15


yoink: " So you're saying that we're worrying now

I'm worrying about nothing. cjelli made a comment and I offered a different perspective. You didn't understand my meaning, so I clarified.

I feel like you're now spinning this into some sort of weird meta-analysis. Possibly in an effort to catch me in a "gotcha" of your own making?

If you want to engage in intellectual masturbation about people's motives, then have at it. But I'm done.
posted by zarq at 1:01 PM on May 15


The word "total" in "total compensation" can mean a lot of things, but Sulzberger seems pretty unambiguous about his position, stating that pay wasn't the issue that lead to Abramson's dismissal. If it was, it seems like she could easily have a discrimination suit against the NYT.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:07 PM on May 15


I'd guess the issue is editorial direction.

For example, the reanimated corpse of the Monica Lewinsky affair has been staggering back and forth across the front page of the Guardian for what seems like weeks now, in a clear attempt by editorship to help kill Hilary's nomination hopes, but the NYTimes has said very little about that story; it'll be interesting to see if that changes.

And the NYTimes' coverage of the de Blasio administration has been startlingly positive to me, considering how long they were in 'our wonderful Mayor can do no wrong' mode during the Bloomberg years, and I fully expect to see a dramatic worsening of the weather there as the summer progresses.
posted by jamjam at 1:15 PM on May 15


"People who are saying it came out of the blue..."

Hold on, no one here is blaming metafilter.
posted by el io at 1:19 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


David Folkenflik independently confirmed that Abramson did challenge top brass over pay. Folkenflik also said that the compensation issue was one of several issues that led to her ouster.

It's lame that this is how she was fired. It's also a bummer that this is how Dean Baquet, the first black executive editor of The New York Times, got promoted.
posted by kat518 at 1:39 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


No one seems to know the truth, as the disagreement seems to be about wording about pay. What does "total compensation" mean to the NYT and what does "unequal pay" mean to her, given that the NYT states in what seems like pretty unambiguous language that she was paid more, in total, than Keller's own total? These seem like quantifiable, verifiable statements, once we see numbers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on May 15


I don't think we're going to see the numbers.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on May 15


knoyers: as if she's entitled to escape any pain of her industry's ongoing disaster because she's a woman.

Right. This is clearly about women's sense of "entitlement". Absolutely. We're living in a post-racial world*, so surely sexism must be all in the past, too - right?

*According to all the ultra-right-wing, white racists I know.

Bonus round: Who here actually knows the definition of "entitlement"?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:06 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I don't think we're going to see the numbers.

Then we're left with rumors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 PM on May 15


The world does not need more shitty talking head video, and every second reporters spend doing that shit is a second they're not spending news-gathering.

No, good news media should be about explaining issues to readers as well as gathering new facts. People fetishize the act of investigative journalism, as if every story is a potential Watergate with the potential to affect us all.

But I think one of the most important roles of the journalist is to take a complex and important issue that's known and widely reported on and explain it succinctly to readers, so they understand it how it impacts them and the world and, perhaps, can take action. Well-made videos can do this more effectively than text, especially for dull issues like net neutrality.

tl;dr Explaining chronic issues can be just as important as reporting Breaking News!1!
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:12 PM on May 15


shameful. the NYT looks like shit, no matter which reason was the real one.
posted by bruce at 2:24 PM on May 15


"I don't follow. Sulzberger's phrase is "total compensation package." If she received any compensation that was in addition to "salary and pension" it would have to be included in her "total compensation package." I mean, either Sulzberger is flat out lying (which would be a remarkably dumb thing to do in a case like this) or she was being paid more than Bill Keller was paid--no matter which way you slice "being paid.""

Folkenflick on NPR this morning noted that bonuses are excluded from "total compensation" because they're given at the publisher's discretion, which could be part of the mismatch in what Sulzberger and Abramson are saying.
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


It also could be that she found out she was being paid less, she demanded more money and got it, and that contributed to the brass deciding she was a pushy bitch who needed to be canned.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:21 PM on May 15


At this point the pay thing is pretty much not even he-said-she-said (because she's not talking) but what Sulzberger says vs. what unnamed sources inside the Times say. Assign credibility where you will in that set of sources, but it's not entirely unreasonable to assume that Sulzberger, who could be on the hook for pay discrimination lawsuits--and not just from Abramson, either; her compensation could be used as evidence in a different case later--is weasel-wording to avoid bad PR and/or court troubles.
posted by immlass at 3:32 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


You're saying the person willing to speak on the record should be assigned less credibility than the people who are unwilling to speak on the record?
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on May 15


She might not be able to speak on this issue as a condition of her severance package, or her lawyer may have advised her not to speak about the details of an impending case against her former employer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:07 PM on May 15


What Jill Abramson and Anita Hill now have in common
posted by homunculus at 4:09 PM on May 15


You're saying the person willing to speak on the record should be assigned less credibility than the people who are unwilling to speak on the record?

When the person who is willing to speak on the record has the power to fire the people who speak off the record, I think that should be factored into the equation.
posted by ambrosia at 4:44 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Ken Auletta now has some figures on the equal pay question:
Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of a male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her predecessor in that position, Phil Taubman. (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:02 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Auletta's info about the wooing of The Guardian's Janine Gibson is more interesting than the salary question. Turns out NYT CEO Mark Thompson was on board with the offer to Gibson that so annoyed Baquet, contrary to David Carr's implication that Abramson had been operating on her own:

Abramson clearly should have confided earlier with Baquet, a failure that contributed to the impression that she could be an unskilled and insensitive executive. But the story is complicated by a previously undisclosed e-mail from April 28th, from Thompson to Abramson:
40 mins on phone to Janine…. I told her there really was a new spirit in the newsroom and she buys that and has been impressed by what’s been achieved recently. She reveres you and will need convincing that you’re going to sign up for some more years as Editor. I told her I was doing my best to persuade you that you should! … I’ll see her again when she’s in next week.
In addition to confirming that the top management of the Times was, in fact, on the same page as Abramson about this hire, the e-mail raises a question: What happened between April 28th, when Thompson urged Abramson “to sign up for some more years as Editor,” and May 14th, when she was terminated?

posted by mediareport at 6:40 PM on May 15


You're saying the person willing to speak on the record should be assigned less credibility than the people who are unwilling to speak on the record?

Yes, I'd say that, sure. Or are *you* saying that PR flacks like Eileen Murphy who are paid to speak on the record are inherently more credible than newsroom employees who want their stories told but fear retribution?

Because that would seem crazy.
posted by mediareport at 6:44 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


No, I'm saying that I don't think we have anything like enough information to judge who is telling the truth but I'm certainly not going to decide a couple unsubstantiated rumors must be it.
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on May 15


Some of the sharpest media reporters in the country, who have cultivated contacts at the NYT for decades in some cases, are using those contacts to report the story as well as it is possible to report it. Dismissing that work as "a couple unsubstantiated rumors" seems to me deeply wrong-headed.

Anyway, Rachel Sklar has interesting things to say at Medium.com about the idea that Abramson was "humiliated" by the firing:

But “humiliating” feels like the wrong word. It implies that Abramson, herself, is humiliated. To be honest, the only behavior that struck me as shameful and dodgy here was that of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the paper and chairman of The New York Times Company. Reports are that Abramson refused to resign, so she was fired. Her name was off the masthead mere hours later.

In terse remarks to the staff, Sulzberger explained the decision as “an issue with management in the newsroom.” He did not mention Abramson’s almost two decades at the Times, nor say a gracious word about her Pulitzer-winning, Snowfalling, Margaret-Sullivan-appointing, NYT-masthead-gender-parity-equalizing tenure.

Abramson was let go in this way not becaue of a failure of business or journalism — the point of the enterprise, lest we forget! — but because Arthur Sulzberger is himself a bad manager, and managed this situation spectacularly badly. (Again.) Instead of having the vision to plan ahead and orchestrate an orderly transition, Sulzberger has launched his new editor, Dean Baquet, into a storyline more worthy of Game of Thrones than the nation’s most august bastion of the fourth estate. Baquet, the first black executive editor at the New York Times, should have been able to plan his ascension and enjoy his own storyline. Instead it is forever bound up in the sad, ugly drama of an abrupt and unhappy exit.

Leaving aside Abramson’s flaws and Baquet’s virtues, the “how” of this decision was all Sulzberger, and its flawed execution just accrues to his legacy of mismanagement, public airing of dirty laundry, and massive misjudgment.

posted by mediareport at 6:58 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Well, according to Auletta, PR flack Eileen Murphy is now conceding that Abramson was fired in part because she asked for more money, although Murphy still claims there was no significant pay disparity:
It is always hard to say what causes a final break—a firing, a divorce—but, clearly, a last straw came a few weeks ago, when Abramson, who made little secret of her displeasure with Sulzberger, decided to hire a lawyer to complain that her salary was not equal to that of her predecessor, Bill Keller. She had also been told by reliable sources at the paper that, as managing editor, she had once earned less than her own deputy, John Geddes. Abramson’s attempt to raise the salary issue at a time when tempers were already frayed seemed wrongheaded to Sulzberger and Thompson, both on its merits and in terms of her approach. Bringing in a lawyer, in particular, seems to have struck them as especially combative. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, argued that there was no real compensation gap, but conceded to me that “this incident was a contributing factor” to the firing of Abramson, because “it was part of a pattern.”
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:58 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


mediareport: Where is the wiggle room in the "her compensation was 10% higher than her predecessors" statement?
posted by Justinian at 7:05 PM on May 15


Ah, ok, it sounds like a big part of the problem was that her previous salary as managing editor had been lower than comparable salaries. The NYT has denied a pay gap for her job as Executive Editor but not Managing Editor.
posted by Justinian at 7:09 PM on May 15


Yeah, plus I don't share your apparent belief that the "10% higher" thing from one side of the story is the definitive word. To me, the salary question remains an open one, though not one I've been particularly focused on here (I get that a lot of folks think it's the most important element, but I personally find it hard to care at the salary levels we're talking about). Still, Abramson obviously thought it was worth bringing a lawyer into the NYT building over.

And again, here's Auletta: But it is hard to know how to parse this without more numbers from the Times. For instance, did Abramson’s compensation pass Keller’s because the Times’ stock price rose? Because her bonuses came in up years and his in down years? Because she received a lump-sum long-term payment and he didn’t?

And, if she was wrong, why would Mark Thompson agree, after her protest, to sweeten her compensation from $503,000 to $525,000?


There's plenty of wiggle room there.
posted by mediareport at 7:12 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I can think of reasons why they would do that but, frankly, given that the NYT themselves appear to have corroborated at least some of this story now I don't have much desire to bother. They don't look good.
posted by Justinian at 7:17 PM on May 15


I do also love PR flak Eileen Murphy's response, which is now "the salaries were broadly comparable." Her response to the question about why Thompson agreed to raise Abramson's pay is classic "we really need to avoid a lawsuit here" speak:

(Murphy said, on behalf of Thompson, that Abramson “also raised other issues about her compensation and the adequacy of her pension arrangements, which had nothing to do with the issue of comparability. It was to address these other issues that we suggested an increase in her compensation.”)

I just can't bring myself to value that kind of stuff from a PR flak - regarding an ex-employee the PR flak almost certainly knows can't speak publicly about her firing - over reports from staffers who feel they have to remain anonymous to keep their jobs. I think anyone who'd suggest the PR flak deserves more "credibility" simply because she gets paid to put her name to lawyer-approved spiels is being extremely foolish.
posted by mediareport at 7:19 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly amazed at how badly the Times seems to have lost control of this situation. Did they seriously not foresee that this might blow up on them? How much would it have cost them to allow Abramson a more dignified exit? It seems like it would have saved them a lot of grief.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:25 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


That's why I find Rachel Sklar's take - Sulzberger is a shitty manager who fucked this up royally just like he fucked up so many other managerial situations in the past - interesting. At this point it seems like Sulzberger allowed Baquet's anger at the way The Guardian thing was handled to push him over the edge into a stupidly rash decision and then implemented it in the most obnoxiously insulting way possible to create a purely self-inflicted wound that's going to have ramifications for the NYT's reputation on women's issues for years to come.

I'm sure we'll see articles 4-5 months from now posted at longform.org that flesh out the real story, but that's what it looks like at the moment. The CEO of the NYT was begging Abramson to stay longer at the end of April. She was fired by the publisher two weeks later. Between those dates was Baquet's May 7th meeting with Sulzberger. Auletta's right: no one comes out of this smelling nice.
posted by mediareport at 7:40 PM on May 15


You're saying the person willing to speak on the record should be assigned less credibility than the people who are unwilling to speak on the record?

What I think is that a lawyer crafted Sulzberger's statement in a way that covers his ass and the collective ass of the Times against discrimination lawsuits as much as possible.
posted by immlass at 7:47 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


How much would it have cost them to allow Abramson a more dignified exit? It seems like it would have saved them a lot of grief.

No shit!

Baquet himself said in the Politico article,
“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 said. “That, I think, is a little bit of an unfair caricature.”

I mean, ya think? This from the guy who is described in the same piece:
"Baquet burst out of Abramson’s office, slammed his hand against a wall, and stormed out of the newsroom. He would be gone for the rest of the day, absent from the editors’ daily 4 p.m. meeting, at which he is a fixture."

I hope Baquet does well as EE, but geez, he hardly comes across as "calmer." And it does seem like the NYT could have avoided some of the gossipy coverage by giving Abramson her due.

OTOH, it could well be that Abramson was never going to go gentle into that good night (why should she), so they took the abrupt approach. But it looks awful.
posted by torticat at 7:49 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


So, it's pretty clear at this point that Abramson is using Auletta as a mouthpiece, to get out her version of the story, right? (Not that I'm doubting her version, it's just that Auletta's "I'm told"s are kind of absurdly transparent.)
posted by neroli at 8:16 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


So, it's pretty clear at this point that Abramson is using Auletta as a mouthpiece, to get out her version of the story, right? (Not that I'm doubting her version, it's just that Auletta's "I'm told"s are kind of absurdly transparent.)

I don't know what the relationship between Auletta and Abramhson is, but one of the pieces I saw on this used Jane Meyer, the New Yorker's national security writer, as its on the record go to for a supportive quote on Abrahmson; apparently she and Meyer authored a book together back in the day. At a guess, it seems like Abrahmsom and Meyer are close friends and that's how Auletta is getting inside info.
posted by Diablevert at 8:56 PM on May 15


Total nonissue. In today's cutthroat business culture people at this level are fired all the time, often with only the most minimal of pretexts. Don't shed any tears, she probably cleared close to a million dollars a year with stock and bonuses, and should get very substantial severance.
posted by miyabo at 9:18 PM on May 15


It's interesting that the Times' mgmt is reporting to readers about its narrative with its staff, as this issue unfolds. They are clearly adamant about getting their side of the story out there, for sure.

Someone is not telling the full truth. It's still not 100% clear yet, who, but the NYT is basically very publicly doubling down on its position, while Abramson is more or less quietly doing the same through other publications.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on May 15


Total nonissue. In today's cutthroat business culture people at this level are fired all the time, often with only the most minimal of pretexts.

In 2014, if a woman is getting fired in whole or in part because she wanted equal pay for equal work, that's not a non-issue.

It has nothing to do with how much money she made--she's undoubtedly part of the 1% and I doubt anyone here would dispute that--and overall wealth not really the point of this conversation. At all.

Instead, it's part of the continuing conversation about the role of powerful women in the US and the West and how even the most powerful of women can be treated in a sexist and denigrating way by men more powerful than she.

Abramson might have been fired because she ran a terrible newsroom, but at the moment that's not what it looks like, and a lot of women who looked up to her at the Times would like to have this conversation.
posted by librarylis at 9:43 PM on May 15 [32 favorites]


NYT is basically very publicly doubling down on its position

Well, not entirely. If I understand their statements correctly, yesterday they said there was no complaint about a pay disparity and none of that ever happened and what are you talking about, and today they acknowledge that she hired a lawyer about a pay disparity and they didn't like it. Those are different, as I understand them, even though in both cases they maintain that there wasn't an actual disparity. I mean, they're clearly maintaining she was wrong, but they're conceding that she made equal pay an issue and they didn't like the way she went about it, the way I read it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:43 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


It is looking like she found out that there was a pattern over many years of paying her less than men in identical and lower roles; there was already friction but her advocacy over that issue seems to have partially led to the firing.

If that pattern turns out to extend to other women at the Times, lawsuits should (and hopefully will) ensue, as well as the Times risking losing some of its best talent.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Times just settle a case of sex discrimination wrt to paying women less?

You'd think with that background the owner would be bending over backwards to not make it appear he was doing the same thing.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:51 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


The thing is, the pay thing is only part of it, and I don't even think it's the biggest part of it. The other part is the allegation that criticisms of her management style and relations with the bosses were gendered, that she got called pushy or abrasive for doing things that would be seen as authoritative and take-charge if they were done by a guy. And that's a lot harder to prove, but it's a huge issue for women in leadership positions. On the one hand, you have to be assertive and authoritative or you can't run things. On the other hand, people tend to react badly to women who exercise power without apologizing. And that double bind keeps women out of positions of authority. I think that part of the reason this is resonating so much is that it feels representative of some of the ways in which the glass ceiling continues to function in journalism and elsewhere.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:03 AM on May 16 [9 favorites]


On the one hand, you have to be assertive and authoritative or you can't run things. On the other hand, people tend to react badly to women who exercise power without apologizing.

Exactly. As quoted upthread:
"Baquet burst out of Abramson’s office, slammed his hand against a wall, and stormed out of the newsroom. He would be gone for the rest of the day, absent from the editors’ daily 4 p.m. meeting, at which he is a fixture."
But yeah, then we hear how Abramson is the one with management style issues.
posted by immlass at 8:00 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Now that we have numbers, it's worth remembering that there's been a substantial amount of inflation since Bill Keller left - his $559,000 in 2010 USD would already be $608,800 in 2014 USD, according to Wolfram Alpha.
posted by dialetheia at 9:01 AM on May 16


In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if inflation and rising NYT stock explained the whole disparity - she could easily be making less than Keller was in real terms, but look like she's making "10% more" when they use unadjusted numbers.

(Inflation, rising NYT stock, and sexism, that is)
posted by dialetheia at 9:11 AM on May 16


At a major tech company in Seattle, total compensation includes stock options. If the NYT left that out of their valuation of total pay, is that typical?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 PM on May 16


Blazecock Pileon: "At a major tech company in Seattle, total compensation includes stock options. If the NYT left that out of their valuation of total pay, is that typical?"

No. Especially since the value of the stock has literally doubled during Abramson's tenure.
posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on May 16


Stephen Brill breaks down the numbers thrown around for Abramson and Keller. He states up front that Abramson is a friend of his, but he does get to the crux of how there could be a pay equity argument if Abramson and Keller had "broadly comparable" compensation packages.
posted by gladly at 1:34 PM on May 16


Over at Talking Points Memo, the interpretation is that Eileen Murphy probably inadvertently conceded that this is a case of wrongful termination.
posted by newdaddy at 1:57 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Alex Pareene's piece over at The Awl is pretty unequivocal -
posted by newdaddy at 2:13 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


"The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age":
Abramson’s removal and Dean Baquet’s ascent has apparently inspired someone inside the Times to leak...the full report of the newsroom innovation team that was given six full months to ask big questions about the Times’ digital strategy. (A summary version of it was leaked last week, but this is the big kahuna.)
posted by cjelli at 7:51 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


That Alex Pareene piece is a thing of beauty.
posted by drezdn at 9:00 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Editing While Female

As a person who worked as a mag editor for decades and left the profession about five years ago, I have been following this story with considerable interest. I sometimes believe, sometimes reject the suspicion that my career suffered because of my tragic medical condition: absence of penis.

I have many other flaws that probably overshadowed that one, day to day, so for the sake of my own personal growth I really don't want to hide behind the convenient explanation of sexism. Still, I saw plenty of dudes advanced ahead of me after working much less hard. Sexism is the least personally-painful explanation for that, but probably not the only one.
posted by GrammarMoses at 10:18 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


from Arthur Sulzburger. I'm not entirely sure what he thinks that's going to accomplish!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:09 PM on May 17


Sulzberger's statement papers over the compensation disparity questions others have explored in detail, but more importantly does nothing to address the questions about the Dignity Disparity. Why was Abramson fired so rudely and sent out of the building with so little dignity - no group sendoff like with Howell Raines, no chance to say goodbye to the newsroom, her name removed from the masthead within minutes? It was a completely tone-deaf and unnecessarily obnoxious way to fire her, leaving the distinct impression that Sulzberger, his "Digital Innovation Report" son, and almost certainly Mark "I Knew Nothing About Anything Important At The BBC While I Was Director-General Of The BBC" Thompson were all happy to send Abramson into the night in as mean-spirited a way as possible. It speaks volumes about Sulzberger's management abilities that he chose to do it that way.

Sulzberger now needs to address those questions. Until he does, all we have are the scathing attacks on his skills as an incompetent 4th-generation manager of the family business, like that vicious piece from the Awl::

This is a piece about how the actual act of the axing became a P.R. disaster of nearly Bundy Ranchian proportions, thanks to the man who inherited the paper from his father, who inherited it from his father, who inherited it from his father-in-law, the last man in this chain of publishers who had to do anything resembling work to earn the position.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. is sometimes referred to as "Pinch," a mocking variation of his father's nickname, "Punch"...It is a mocking nickname because almost no one who comes into contact with Sulzberger has any respect for him, as a businessman or publisher or intellect. Years ago he was undeservedly handed what was then a great prize. Now he is responsible for preserving that prize in a recognizable form for the future. It is just really, really clear that he is not up to the task.

...Few bother to measure the newsroom's feelings about the person who's really in charge. This is, I think, because the answer would just be too predictable to be noteworthy. Does anyone imagine that Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. has the respect of The Newsroom?

Times journalists think of the boss (correctly) as a dilettante and a flake, whose ignorance and insecurity leave him vulnerable to scammy corporate gurus and management fads...I find it hard to believe that the business side at the Times has any more respect for Sulzberger — and his flailing, transparently desperate attempts to make the business work — than the supposedly lofty-minded newsroom veterans do.

Arthur Sulzberger is in over his head. He's clearly not up to the challenge of being the publisher of the nation's last newspaper during the newspaper extinction era.

posted by mediareport at 4:56 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


The Times reporter covering this (don't envy him that job right now!) is saying that it was Abramson's call to leave the way she did.:
Ms. Abramson was also offered a more gentle departure from the newspaper, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. But she declined, this person said, and wanted it made clear that she was fired.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:07 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Oooo that's interesting, thanks!
posted by Justinian at 9:28 PM on May 17


Politico: Editing While Female, by Susan Glasser.
And sure enough this was exactly the fight that immediately erupted again on Wednesday among the commentariat about both women, a discussion that dwelled at great length on their personalities, their leadership skills and the extent to which their status as trailblazers in a male-dominated world was relevant. Even the defense—and there were many defenders—was being waged on this battlefield, the terrain of women’s personal qualities and whether they truly belong in the public positions that remain a man’s unquestioned privilege.
It was predictably awful, and I was not in the least bit surprised. Because this has happened to just about every woman I know who has dared to take up a highly visible leadership position in our great but troubled news organizations. Including me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:13 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


To elaborate on my earlier point: Jill Abramson Will Never Know Why She Got Fired

And one more, from the impressive Kara Swisher: Dear Jill: From One Pushy Media Dame to Another.
Let me be perfectly clear when it comes to ousted New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson: She has, on some occasions I have spent time with her, scared the bejesus out of me.

That said, it was in a very good way.

I am not sure whether it was her unusually focused stare, which can be unsettling. Or her supernatural ability to be completely still when listening to you, which can be discomforting in that it is not a stance that would put anyone at ease. Or even her bone-dry wit, which can be sharp but in a manner that is, to my mind, brilliant.

That steel-backed ability to communicate an aura of toughness and command has never been a minus to me, and, I would assume, not at the pinnacle of American journalism where the Times has long reigned. This is the big leagues, right, where there is no crying in baseball.
posted by GrammarMoses at 10:20 AM on May 18


And the view from inside: @ravisomaiya
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:15 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


You know, it occurs to me that regardless of whether Abramson's firing was motivated by sexism, this has the potential to be a real disaster for women at the Times. It now seems that Dean Baquet, the new editor, demanded her firing and was given it. One can only assume that he'll disfavor people who are seen as closely associated with her. Given that she seems to have made a point of mentoring young women at the Times, that could very well mean that a lot of younger women are going to be on the outs with their boss. There doesn't have to be any sexism at all for this to have all sorts of short and medium-term implications.

Which is not to say that there wasn't any sexism.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:29 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Editor’s Exit at The Times Puts Tensions on Display

Jill did a six-month tour of The Times’s digital endeavors before assuming the editorship, and was publicly supportive of a recent groundbreaking report on innovation at The New York Times. But the report plainly stated that the paper was lagging in that area, and according to several executives in the newsroom she took some of its findings personally.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 PM on May 18


The thing about the firing of women executives is, it's never just sexism. Nobody fires a woman because she's a woman. Even if they want to, people know they'll be crucified for it. The question is always whether the judgement that the hiring/firing authority makes is colored by the sex of the employee.

Sulzberger will believe to his grave, no doubt, that he would have fired a man who committed whichever offense Abramson was fired for (I totally believe it's the Gibson thing and Baquet threatening to quit over it). But Sulzberger can never prove it, and a lot of people, not all women, either, will never believe it, and that is a terrible underlying problem. It comes up in the Carr piece, with the women wondering about their place and future at the paper.

The fact that Baquet is black just makes it worse, because he faces the same issues. One has to wonder whether he worries that he got passed over for the executive editor job last time because he's not white, and how much that played into his reaction to the would-be Gibson hire.
posted by immlass at 7:30 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


The David Carr article continues after the paragraph Blazecock quoted with news that Dean Baquet threatened to quit over the way Abramson handled the overture to Gibson, and Sulzberger realized he had to fire Abramson to keep him:

Jill did a six-month tour of The Times’s digital endeavors before assuming the editorship, and was publicly supportive of a recent groundbreaking report on innovation at The New York Times. But the report plainly stated that the paper was lagging in that area, and according to several executives in the newsroom she took some of its findings personally.

Perhaps that is part of the reason tried to bring in Janine Gibson, a senior editor at The Guardian, as a co-managing editor for digital. That was a big tactical mistake, at least in terms of office management. Dean was not aware that Jill had made an offer to Ms. Gibson, and he was furious and worried about how it would affect not only him but the rest of the news operation as well...

When Dean let Arthur know that he would leave the paper because he found the situation untenable, it was clear that an important insurance policy for the newspaper’s future was going to leave the building.


In "Sulzberger's last straw," Politico claims Sulzberger and Thompson felt Abramson deliberately misled them about whether her managing editor, Baquet, and her deputy managing editor, Janet Elder, were in the loop on Gibson, and points out just how embarrassing the process must have been for Baquet:

Throughout this process, Abramson implied — both in direct conversations and in emails — that Baquet and other masthead leaders were aware of her decision to offer Gibson a co-managing editor position, and that they supported it, the sources said. But they said that Abramson had only mentioned to Baquet that she was interested in hiring Gibson to help boost the digital product — a plan Baquet did not seem enthusiastic about. She never told him that the offer had been made, nor did she tell him about the details of the position, according to the sources.

On Monday, May 5, Abramson sent Baquet to meet with Gibson over lunch...Baquet went into the lunch expecting a casual conversation exploring what Gibson might be able to contribute to the Times. Instead, Gibson told Baquet that she was extremely tempted by the offer to become co-managing editor. Baquet played along as Gibson discussed the offer, not wanting to betray his ignorance, and the lunch ended amicably, the sources said. The next day, he went into Sulzberger’s office and, according to the sources, told him he could not work in an environment where such important decisions were being made without his knowledge.

Sulzberger was shocked: As far as he knew, Baquet was not only aware of the offer, but supported it. Sulzberger concluded that his executive editor had misled him. In the wake of earlier complaints about her management style, Abramson had agreed to see a consultant to try and fix the problems. Sulzberger now believed that the problems could not be fixed.


If it's true that Abramson sent Baquet into that meeting knowing that he didn't know she'd already made Gibson an offer - that would be some pretty piss-poor management on her part, no? Or would that be standard-level cutthroat office politics at the NYT if she were a man? Either way, the cardinal sin here seems to have been Abramson misleading Sulzberger and Thompson - both of whom liked the idea of hiring Gibson - about whether the folks just under her were in the loop on the decision.

The fact that one of the people Abramson allegedly kept in the dark was also a high-level female NYT executive makes the sexual politics somewhat more complex.
posted by mediareport at 10:32 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The new piece from Ken Auletta is a good one-stop summary and quotes Gibson as saying she understood that Baquet had been in the loop when they had their lunch:

Janine Gibson, speaking publicly for the first time about her meetings with Baquet, clouded the case against Abramson somewhat, at least where the accusation of lying is concerned. “I can’t speak to Dean’s understanding, but it was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed,” she told me. “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Gibson has told friends that, not only did she meet with Baquet for lunch on Monday May 5th, she met that morning with him and Abramson together for more than an hour. She had a separate meeting with Sulzberger and Thompson.
posted by mediareport at 10:43 AM on May 19


"Jill Abramson's Firing Was About Gender. And Also Not About Gender. Why we always ask the wrong questions about sexism"
posted by exogenous at 12:18 PM on May 23


More about Baquet: New NYT editor spiked NSA spying story
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


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