The Sunday morning talking heads shows are full of speculations about why Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of The New York Times, arguably the most prestigious job in journalism, was summarily fired. Some are saying it was because she had the temerity to complain that she wasn’t being paid as much as her male predecessor. Her boss, Pinch Sulzberger, says that she didn’t play well with others.
I think the answer is no one knows. Mr. Sulzberger hasn’t really cleared anything up with his statements.
I can only offer a few general observations. First, in a monarchy there is only one capital crime: lèse-majesté, slighting of majesty. Ms. Abramson obviously didn’t cultivate her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger to the degree necessary to hold on to her job. That is what top managers do. They cultivate relationships with their subordinates to get the results of which those subordinates are capable. They cultivate relationships with their superiors to maintain freedom of action.
So far today every female journalist has complained about pay. Maybe it’s my sexism talking but in Ms. Abramson’s particular case I find that pathetic. Top managers are paid whatever they’re paid because they’re able to negotiate their compensation as part of the terms of their employment. It’s not the same situation as the cubicle-dwelling Dilberts of the corporate world who are paid according to a salary schedule. Among them female Dilberts complaining that they’re not paid as much as male Dilberts is perfectly legitimate.