It wasn’t the only reason, claims the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, but it was one of them. So, if you’ve been wondering what that mysterious smell is this afternoon, there’s your answer: It’s a Category Five sh*tstorm on the horizon, moving at ferocious speed towards America’s most famous liberal newspaper.
No need to pop the popcorn. I’ve made plenty. Behold the war on women:
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, has had to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for many fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. (I was also told by another friend of hers that the pay gap with Keller has since been closed.) But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy.
David Folkenflik of NPR tweeted this afternoon that he’s independently confirmed the gist of Auletta’s story, that Abramson did indeed challenge Sulzberger and crew about her pay. Her rap for being “pushy” goes back years, and inspired a Politico profile in 2013 in which unnamed NYTers described her as “stubborn and condescending, saying they found her difficult to work with.” A fair cop, or another double standard aimed at a “bossy” woman who’d draw no complaints if not for her gender? In the interest of making this as miserable as possible for the Times, I’m calling it sexism. Straight up.
I don’t want to raise expectations too much but I think this food fight might end up being even more deliciously schadenfreudean than SEIU versus Media Matters. The good news is that, unlike most of liberal media, the Times will now have a minority in charge: New executive editor Dean Baquet is black. The bad news?
If the NYTimes pays Baquet more than Ambramson, it's proof they are sexist.
If it doesn't, it's proof they are racist AND sexist.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) May 14, 2014
Update: Annnnnd here’s the obligatory denial:
“Jill’s total compensation as executive editor was not less than Bill Keller’s, so that is just incorrect,” New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told POLITICO on Wednesday. “Her pension benefit, like all Times employees, is based on her years of service and compensation. The pension benefit was frozen in 2009.”