Media

Jill Abramson's Firing from the Times Looking Suspiciously Sexist

The abruptly-canned editor was seen as "pushy" and is said to have asked for pay parity with predecessor.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times announced Wednesday that executive editor Jill Abramson would be replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet. Abramson, appointed in 2011, was the first woman to be executive editor at the Times, and Baquet will be the first African-American in the role. But the big question is "why is Jill Abramson being fired after three years?"

The reason for her firing isn't the quality of the journalism produced under her leadership: During her three years as executive editor, the Timeswon eight Pulitzer prizes. No, the reason is that Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the newspaper's publisher, found her difficult and didn't like her managerial style. And one of the issues around which he reportedly thought she was difficult was this, reported by the New Yorker's Ken Auletta:

"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."

This is not the best look for the Times. The publisher, the guy who inherited his role at the company, thought the first woman in the top editorial job was just pushy and unpleasant, and one of the incidents in which he found her pushy and unpleasant very shortly before he fired her was that she asked about why she was paid less than her male predecessor. We can take Auletta at his word that the pay issue was only one of a series of conflicts between Abramson and Sulzberger and still think it suggests Sulzberger's view of what makes a woman difficult to work with may be just a little messed up.

Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.