WHY JILL ABRAMSON WAS FIRED
This post was updated at 10 P.M.
At the annual City University Journalism School dinner, on Monday, Dean Baquet, the managing editor of the New York Times, was seated with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the paper’s publisher. At the time, I did not give a moment’s thought to why Jill Abramson, the paper’s executive editor, was not at their table. Then, at 2:36 P.M. on Wednesday, an announcement from the Times hit my e-mail, saying that Baquet would replace Abramson, less than three years after she was appointed the first woman in the top job. Baquet will be the first African-American to lead theTimes.
Fellow-journalists and others scrambled to find out what had happened. Sulzberger had fired Abramson, and he did not try to hide that. In a speech to the newsroom on Wednesday afternoon, he said, “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects …” Abramson chose not to attend the announcement, and not to pretend that she had volunteered to step down.
As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. 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. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. [Update: On Thursday, Sulzberger gave his staff a memo on what he said was “misinformation” on the pay question. “It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors,” he wrote. “Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors.”] Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”
Sulzberger’s frustration with Abramson was growing. She had already clashed with the company’s C.E.O., Mark Thompson, over native advertising and the perceived intrusion of the business side into the newsroom. Publicly, Thompson and Abramson denied that there was any tension between them, as Sulzberger today declared that there was no church-state—that is, business-editorial—conflict at the Times. A politician who made such implausible claims might merit a front-page story in the Times. The two men and Abramson clearly did not get along.
A third issue surfaced, too: Abramson was pushing to hire a deputy managing editor to oversee the digital side of the Times. She believed that she had the support of Sulzberger and Thompson to recruit this deputy, and her supporters say that the plan was for the person in this position to report to Baquet. Baquet is a popular and respected figure in the newsroom, and he had appeared, for the most part, to get along with Abramson. (I was told, however, that, at a recent dinner with Sulzberger, Baquet said he found her hard to work with.) He is also someone whom Sulzberger passed over when he chose Abramson. But Baquet apparently felt that he hadn’t been consulted, and, according to two sources, expressed his concerns to Sulzberger. He had also reportedly been approached by Bloomberg about a job there. (Baquet has not yet responded to a request for comment; neither has Abramson.)
In a reflection of the fractious relationship that Baquet and others had with Abramson, the Timesreported that Baquet, speaking to the newsroom after his appointment, “praised Ms. Abramson for teaching him ‘the value of great ambition’ and then added that John Carroll, whom he worked for at The Los Angeles Times, ‘told me that great editors can also be humane editors.’”
These issues seemed to coalesce for Sulzberger and Thompson. The reason Sulzberger originally hesitated to appoint Abramson as executive editor was a worry about her sometimes brusque manner. As I wrote in my Profile of Abramson, others in the newsroom, including some women, had the same concern. But, although there are always complaints about the Times’ supposed “liberal” bias, or its preoccupation with certain stories, Abramson got high marks for the investigative stories that she championed. At a time when Bloomberg News pulled the plug on an investigation of corruption and the princelings in China, Abramson pushed the Times to do more, even after her reporters came under pressure in China. [Update: Bloomberg maintains that the investigation is still active and that it has published other stories on princelings. The story in question has been held since last fall, however, prompting the resignation of three journalists.] Even though she thought she was politely asking about the pay discrepancy and about the role of the business side, and that she had a green light from management to hire a deputy to Baquet, the decision to terminate her was made. Sulzberger met with her last Friday, and reportedly told her that it was time to make “a change.”
Read Ken Auletta’s Profile of Abramson, from 2011, and watch a video of their conversation at last year’s New Yorker Festival.
Read more here – http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/05/why-jill-abramson-was-fired.html
PARIS — Faced with a newsroom revolt, the editor in chief of Le Monde, France’s most prominent newspaper, stepped down on Wednesday after a 14-month tenure marked by staff resistance to her efforts to push the paper faster and more fully into the digital era.
The editor, Natalie Nougayrède, had been criticized by her staff for a top-down management style and an inability to build consensus. The discontent was focused largely on a plan to redesign the newspaper and its electronic applications and transfer more than 50 staff members from the print newspaper to the digital operation.
Two of her deputies announced their resignations last week, and seven other editors resigned weeks earlier in opposition to the way Ms. Nougayrède, 47, and the paper’s owners were going about changing Le Monde.
She was elected to the job by the newsroom staff in March 2013 under the prevailing system at Le Monde, in which the paper’s principal owners nominate candidates to be voted on by the journalists. It was not immediately clear who might succeed her.
In a letter of resignation, which was posted on Le Monde’s website, Ms. Nougayrède, the first woman to hold the titles of both editor in chief and director, said she was leaving the paper because “I no longer have the means to run it with all the necessary peace and serenity that is required.”
Ms. Nougayrède blamed those who wished to “reduce drastically the prerogatives of the head of paper.”
Ms. Nougayrède, a longtime foreign correspondent and a former Moscow bureau chief for Le Monde, is a strong advocate of investigative journalism. Under her leadership, the newspaper deployed a team of about 10 journalists to work on a series of articles based on documents from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the United States National Security Agency who leaked information disclosing the scope of the agency’s vast data gathering.
Le Monde was among the first news organizations to write about the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the government of President Bashar al-Assad. That was the work of reporters who were traveling with the Syrian rebels and who collected samples from where attacks were believed to have taken place and then had them analyzed.
Yet those journalistic accomplishments, critics said, could not outweigh the larger problems at the newspaper, which had to do with Ms. Nougayrède’s efforts to expand and strengthen its digital presence and to make it more profitable, and with her management style.
“It is a crisis linked to the growth of digital in a traditional company of the written press,” said Alain Frachon, a former senior editor of Le Monde. “And on top of that, there is strong discontent.”
Defenders of Ms. Nougayrède said they believed that as a woman she was subjected to far more harsh criticism than a man would have been for demanding changes at the paper.
A professor at the Sorbonne, Patrick Eveno, who teaches history of the media, said Le Monde and other French newspapers were going through the same kind of upheaval that American newspapers went through several years ago.
“It has taken French journalists time to understand that it wasn’t just an economic crisis, but a crisis in social habits, that the information as a product had to be transformed,” he said.
While many people who respect Le Monde said they view it as having done far more to adapt to the digital age than many other French news publications, it remains difficult to change the French newspaper culture.
“In France there is a confusion between the role of the newsroom, which is to produce content, and that of the newspaper itself, which is a larger community,” Mr. Eveno said. “French journalists are a little panicked by the passage to the digital era.”
The challenge has been that much greater because among many senior journalists, there is a special prestige associated with working in print.
Ms. Nougayrède had been criticized for failing to consult broadly with senior editors, and discontent with her leadership boiled over amid the management proposal for a print and digital redesign and the transfers of journalists to the digital staff. While the journalists could have refused the transfers, the sense was that changes were being thrust upon them.
In April, seven of the newspaper’s senior editors sent an internal letter to the management that was leaked to the French news media saying there was “major dysfunction” and “an absence of confidence” with newsroom management.
“We have tried to bring solutions, but it didn’t work,” the letter said. “We have realized that we are no longer able to carry out the tasks entrusted to us, and that’s why we are resigning from our respective posts.”
Read more here –http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/15/world/europe/editor-of-le-monde-resigns-amid-discord.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0