Firing Abramson

by Dave Schuler on May 18, 2014

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Wolf May 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Well, the Times isn’t a news organization so much as a check on what the power elite decide is and is not allowable in public discourse. It long ago abandoned any pretense of objective reporting and now openly sells its pages to whomever offers sufficient cash, a trend on its editorial pages which continued while she was at the helm. I feel no sympathy for Abramson because she wasn’t allowed to gorge at the corruption trough as much as a man. Equality does not mean an equal opportunity to get your cut of the loot.

James Joyner May 19, 2014 at 5:22 am

By “Dillards” do you mean “Dilberts”? The only Dillard’s I know is a department store chain in the South; but maybe it’s a literary reference with which I’m unfamiliar.

Dave Schuler May 19, 2014 at 5:31 am

Thanks. Fixed.

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