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Behind Jill Abramson's New York Times Departure: What Went Wrong?

6/17/2014

By L.A. Ross
TheWrap

The news that Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times, had been ousted from her position on Wednesday, led to inevitable questions about whether her controversial management style was at the heart of her departure.

The Times' own Ravi Somaiya cited publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as saying "an issue with management in the newsroom" was the reason for Abramson exiting the job after two-and-a-half years, to be replaced by notably beloved managing editor Dean Baquet.

Also read:  Jill Abramson Replaced as New York Times Editor by Dean Baquet

New Yorker writer Ken Auletta wrote Wednesday that issues over pay and pension may have led to Abramson getting the heave-ho. Sources say there was a gap between Abramson's compensation and benefits and those of former editor Bill Keller — though others suggest the pay gap had been closed.

Auletta — who in October 2011 wrote an extensive profile of Abramson shortly after her ascension to the helm of the Times that characterized her as "intimidating and brusque" and "too remote" — noted that Keller had had more tenure at the paper than Abramson at the same time in his editorship. But added that the Times had a history of unfair labor practices against women.

Also read:  New York Times Editor Jill Abramson Defends Controversial Piece on Rival Paper

But other reports from within the newsroom suggested that Abramson was simply, "difficult to work with" and that her management style was, "condescending" and "disengaged."

In April 2013, the normally mild-mannered Baquet stormed out of the newsroom after a contentious meeting with Abramson that staffers described as "the altercation," according to Politico.

"Every editor has a story about how she's blown up in a meeting," an unnamed reporter told Politico.

Also read:  NYT Editor Jill Abramson Blasts Sexist Politico Piece Again

In one meeting, Abramson was upset with a photograph that was on the homepage. Rather than asking for a change to be made after the meeting, she turned to the relevant editor and, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, said bluntly, "I don't know why you're still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo."

Still others were upset that Abramson was nowhere to be found when the Times was going through its toughest times, like when senior editors and managers were being forced to take buyouts to reduce the paper's bottom line.

"The Times is leaderless right now," one staffer said at the time.

Also read:  Politico Takedown of NYT's Jill Abramson: Same Old Sexism? Or a Real B—-?

Perhaps that leadership issue is what led to Sulzberger's decision to make a change. The publisher told Times staff that the call had nothing to do with the quality of the journalism, nor about any sort of disagreement between the newsroom and the business side.

"Rather, I choose to appoint a new leader for our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom," Sulzberger told the staff, according to prepared remarks provided by a Times spokesperson.

"There is nothing more I am going to say about this, but I want to assure all of you that there is nothing more at issue here," Sulzberger added.

When asked by TheWrap, the New York Times said it would not provide any further comment on Abramson's departure.

The post Behind Jill Abramson's New York Times Departure: What Went Wrong? appeared first on TheWrap.

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