The New York Times public editor wrote Thursday that executive editor Jill Abramson’s sudden ouster had more to do with her management style than with being “pushy,” at least from her perspective.
“As an observer, I don’t think this decision had much to do with Ms. Abramson being ‘pushy,’ which is gender-related code for strong and opinionated,” public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote. “It was more that she was undiplomatic and less than judicious in some management and personnel decisions. That matters when you’re supervising 1,250 people in a business being forced to reinvent itself.”
That position gels with what Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. told the newspaper’s stunned staff on Wednesday, which was that Abramson’s replacement was caused by an “issue with management.” Sullivan also acknowledged the gendered aspect of some media reports that painted Abramson as a “pushy” or “brusque” editor while largely writing her personality off as a cause for dismissal.
She further noted Sulzberger’s response to reports that Abramson had been dismissed after she approached management about being paid less than her predecessors.
“Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation,” Sulzberger said in a memo to staff. “The reason – the only reason – for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment.”
Ironically, just two days before Abramson’s ouster Sullivan wrote a column centered on a recent Women’s Media Center study that found the Times had the biggest gender gap in bylines among the nation’s 10 most widely circulated newspapers. She also noted the progress toward gender parity on the Times’ masthead — five of the newspaper’s 10 top-ranking editors were women before Abramson was replaced.