Responding to criticism that gender played a role in his firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, the company’s chairman said Saturday that it was complaints about Abramson’s management style that did her in.
“During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement.
The comments expand on Sulzberger’s two earlier sets of remarks that cited mismangement without providing examples.
He gave the paper's top editor a chance to overcome the issues raised, but “the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of...colleagues and could not win it back,” Sulzberger said.
Since Abramson’s firing Wednesday, commentators and women’s rights activists have said that Abramson was singled out as the paper’s first female editor. A report on The New Yorker's website said Abramson made significantly less than her predecessor, a claim that Sulzberger again refuted Saturday. Abramson had inquired about how her pay stacked up, perhaps fueling her ouster, some speculated.
“Jill's pay package was comparable with Bill Keller's; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10% higher than his,” Sulzberger said. “Equal pay for women is an important issue in our country … but it doesn't help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal.”
He said women in the newsroom “do not look for special treatment.” Instead, they “expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.”
And it was on that basis that Abramson was fairly evaluated, Sulzberger said. Although a good editor and reporter, she couldn’t cut it as a manager in the eyes of the troops she needed to rally at a turbulent time for the print and digital media industries.
Abramson was replaced by Dean Baquet, former editor of the Los Angeles Times. He is the first black executive editor of the New York Times.
Abramson is scheduled to a deliver the commencement address at Wake Forest University in North Carolina on Monday. But she backed out of a similar engagement that had been scheduled for Sunday at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.
A study released earlier this year by the Women’s Media Center found that 31% of stories in the New York Times are written by women, the lowest percentage among the nation's top 10 most widely circulated newspapers. The Chicago Sun-Times led the way at 46%; the Los Angeles Times fell in the middle at 36%. The study quoted Abramson saying she was working to close the gap.
“During my tenure, half of the news masthead of the Times — traditionally the highest ranking editors — are women,” Abramson told the Women’s Media Center. "That’s a significant milestone."