New York Times Publisher Denies Jill Abramson’s Gender Played Role In Her Firing

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Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says he fired Jill Abramson because “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues”

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. denied on Saturday that sexism played a factor in Jill Abramson’s termination as executive editor in a statement that also detailed his decision to fire her.

He defended the paper’s record on equal pay, and said Abramson was not an example of this, noting that “equality is at the core of our beliefs at the Times.”

“Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace,” Sulzberger wrote. “Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.”

Also read: Glenn Greenwald Slams NY Times, New Editor Dean Baquet Over Jill Abramson Firing

At the same time, however, the publisher detailed in an extraordinary way the reasons for firing Abramson.

“During her tenure I heard repeatedly from her newsroom collegaues, 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,” he wrote.

He said he discussed this with Abramson, she had worked on the issues, but “ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Also read: Why Jill Abramson’s Firing Will Hurt the NY Times

The paper has faced a firestorm of criticism and anger over social media, notably from prominent women including Donna Brazile, Rachel Sklar, the Huffington Post led by Arianna Huffington and even Lena Dunham, over the belief that Abramson was fired because she demanded equal pay.

Sulzberger vociferously insisted that this was not the case.

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta reported on Thursday that Abramson had complained to Sulzberger about the pay gap.

He wrote that Abramson’s 2011 salary was $475,000 compared to previous executive editor Bill Keller‘s $559,000 and was only raised after Abramson raised objections. “Her salary was raised to $503,000, and–only after she protested–was raised again to $525,000,” he reported.

Also read: NYT Memo Denies Salary Discrepancy Was Reason Behind Jill Abramson Firing

Sulzberger called this report “untrue,” and denied Abramson’s pay was not comparable with her predecessor’s.

“I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom,” he added. “She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them. We all wanted her to succeed. It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.”

Read the full memo below:

Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace.  Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.

Fueling this have been persistent but incorrect reports that Jill’s compensation package was not comparable with her predecessor’s.  This is untrue. 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.

Equal pay for women is an important issue in our country – one that The New York Times often covers.  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.

I decided that Jill could no longer remain as executive editor for reasons having nothing to do with pay or gender.  As publisher, my paramount duty is to ensure the continued quality and success of The New York Times.  Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out.

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.  I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom.  She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them.  We all wanted her to succeed.  It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom.   While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times.  Many of our key leaders – both in the newsroom and on the business side – are women.  So too are many of our rising stars.  They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.  For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance.  That is what happened in the case of Jill.

Equality is at the core of our beliefs at The Times.  It will always be.