New York Times fires Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson "has been dismissed" from her post as executive editor of The New York Times, the Times reported Wednesday. Dean Baquet will be the new executive editor.

Abramson in 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

In its press release, the New York Times Co. quoted Abramson as saying " I thank [Publisher] Arthur [Sulzberger Jr.], who has been a steadfast protector of our journalism, for the chance to serve.”.

Ravi Somaiya and David Carr report in the Times that Sulzberger told staffers he made the change because of "an issue with management in the newsroom.” Abramson will not stay on at the paper in any capacity, a Times spokesperson told Poynter in an email.

In The New Yorker Ken Auletta reported Sulzberger fired Abramson Friday, an event he writes was precipitated by her reaction to the discovery that her predecessor, Bill Keller, had been paid more:

“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.

Somaiya and Carr report that Baquet "had become angered over a decision by Ms. Abramson to try to hire an editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install her alongside Mr. Baquet in a co-managing editor position without consulting him." (Gibson tells the Guardian: “The New York Times talked to me about the role of joint managing editor, but I said no.”)

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik wrote on Twitter that he had confirmed "Abramson did indeed challenge corporate brass over what she saw as unequal pay."

As seems to be the case with this story, this point becomes less clear the more light is shone upon it. Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Dylan Byers in Politico that "Jill's total compensation as executive editor was not less than Bill Keller's, so [Auletta's account] is just incorrect." But J.K. Trotter notes in Gawker that Murphy told Business Insider Abramson's compensation "was not meaningfully less" than Keller's. Murphy told Trotter the two salaries were "directly comparable" but declined to provide figures.

In his account of a meeting at which top editors were informed of the change, Joe Pompeo reports that "National editor Alison Mithchell suggested that Abramson's firing wouldn't sit well with a broad swath of female Times journalists who saw her as a role model." Pompeo writes his source characterized Sulzberger's response: "When women get to top management positions, they are sometimes fired, just as men are."

Abramson became the Times' executive editor in 2011. She is five years away from being 65, the age at which Times executive editors traditionally must retire. On Monday Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan noted that under Abramson, "not only is the top editor a woman – the first — but many department heads and section editors are, too."

Baquet will be newspaper's first African American top editor. Baquet is "an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world and across the organization,” Sulzberger said in a statement.

Here's Sulzberger's memo to staff:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to announce a leadership change in the newsroom. Effective today, Dean Baquet will become our new executive editor, succeeding Jill Abramson.

This appointment comes at a time when the newsroom is about to embark on a significant effort to transition more fully to a digital-first reality and where, across the organization, we are all learning to adapt to the rapid pace of change in our business.

We owe Jill an enormous debt of gratitude for positioning the newsroom to succeed on both of these critical counts and of course, for preserving and extending the level of our journalistic excellence and innovation. She’s laid a great foundation on which I fully expect Dean and his colleagues will build.

As those of you who know Dean will understand, he is uniquely suited to this role. He is a proven manager, both here at The Times and elsewhere. He is also a consummate journalist whose reputation as a fierce advocate for his reporters and editors is well-deserved. And importantly, he is an enthusiastic supporter of our push toward further creativity in how we approach the digital expression of our journalism.

I know you will join me, Mark and the rest of the senior leadership team in wishing Jill the best and congratulating Dean on his appointment.


Some reactions:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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