The New York Times did pay former executive editor Jill Abramson a lower base salary than her male predecessors despite the newspaper’s insistence that Abramson’s compensation had been “comparable,” according to the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta.
Auletta, who first reported that Abramson had approached management about unequal compensation, published more details Thursday night about the pay gap between Abramson and her predecessors. Her starting salary was $84,000 less than what Bill Keller, whom she succeeded as executive editor, pulled in the same year. That pay disparty appears to have begun over a decade earlier, according to Auletta’s figures:
Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman. (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)
The Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., sent a memo to staff Thursday that assured his decision to dismiss Abramson had nothing to do with pay. He also denied that Abramson had received unequal compensation for the same job as her male predecessors.
“It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors,” he wrote. “In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.”
It’s important to note that “total compensation” includes not just salary, but bonuses, stocks and other incentives — so it’s hard to tell exactly how Abramson’s and Keller’s total compensation was structured.
Auletta also reported that a spokeswoman for the Times, Eileen Murphy, conceded that Abramson’s decision to bring in a lawyer to raise her salary concerns to management was “a contributing factor” to her dismissal. Times reporter Ravi Somaiya contested that account, tweeting that Murphy said she was misquoted and never conceded that salary contributed to Abramson’s ouster.