Jill Abramson

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was abruptly dismissed on Wednesday, less than three years after she took the helm at the paper. Abramson reportedly clashed with management and complained of pay discrimination. But the Times denies that the pay issue was a factor. We discuss Abramson’s departure and the larger issues of women in upper management.

Guests:
Jill Geisler, author of "Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know" and head of The Poynter Institute's Leadership and Management programs
Clara Jeffery, co-editor of Mother Jones
Linda Carli, senior lecturer, Department of Psychology at Wellesley College

  • Guest

    What does it matter whether an executive representing the interests of the 1% is male, female, or other? Each one is a liar just the same.

    • thucy

      Actually, Frank, Abramson’s “pushy” drive for more investigative reporting, as well as her attempt to bring in a female editor from the more left-leaning “The Guardian”, is what got her into trouble. So dismissing her as merely “an executive representing the interests of the 1%” is hardly the whole story.

      • Guest

        So you think she was trying to turn the New York Times into an honest organization? Sounds futile. The NYT was hawkish on Iraq, and caves in to pressure from AIPAC.

        http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/new-york-times-aipac-syria-censorship-pressure-503705

        • thucy

          I don’t disagree that it’s an almost “futile” effort. But I give Abramson credit for her support of Matthew Purdy’s work and of a more ethical insitution.

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        hi thucy. in this comment you state that Abramson was outed for pushing for more left-leaning and investigative reporting, but in your other comment above in this thread you state ‘…Abramson was very possibly ousted not for being a “pushy” broad, but for what she was broadly pushing FOR…” emphasis on ‘very possibly’.

        So do you have a source you can point us to for your varying assertions? Or do you have an inside line on this? Or is this pure ‘analysis’ on your part? tx, steph

        • thucy

          Hi Steph,
          It’s not clear to me why you’re interpreting my “assertions” as “varying”? With the exception of a modifying “very possibly”, they’re consistent in premise.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            “very possibly”, in my experience, means it’s possible but *not* a fact. A statement without that assertion means it’s a fact you take to be true. Those are two different assertions.

            “So do you have a source you can point us to….” ty for your reply, due to obligations i will have no further time to participate in this discussion so thanking you in advance for your sources, steph

          • thucy

            You need to re-read what I actually wrote, Steph. The looser”got her into trouble” is not “very possibly fired.”

            As for sources: Try reading the actual coverage of this issue, Steph. That would include coverage in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, et cetera. In those sources you will actually learn the substance of WHAT Abramson was delivering, and why it was problematic. Good luck.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            My dear thucy. As captivating as your acute focus on my reading comprehension skills no doubt is to the Forum audience, and the KQED radio listening audience at large, honestly i suffer from simple curiosity. I wonder whether the views you’ve preferred as to the motivations underlying Ms. A’s recent firing are simply opinions you developed as you’ve reviewed the many media accounts surrounding this event; or if they perhaps draw upon some information pertaining to her superiors’ interior states at the time of this incident, the source of which information you would be so kind as to share with your fellow Forum fans.

            Your studious avoidance of this issue in your many posts to me and others in this thread supplies me with more than ample information with which to answer my question. Thank you! steph

  • thucy

    I’m glad Jefferey and Khazan are tackling this subject. But as a feminist and long-ago Times employee, I’m concerned that the issue of Abramson’s firing will devolve into a gender whine, rather than giving Abramson her due as a driven editor who pushed for more investigative reporting and who tried to bring in a female editor from the more left-leaning “The Guardian”.

    That is, Abramson was very possibly ousted not for being a “pushy” broad, but for what she was broadly pushing FOR within a paper that has a tendency to “lay down” (or should we say, “lean in”?) with the administration, the banking sector, et cetera.

    Let’s not distract from the larger political issue by focusing too intensely on cultural issues.

    • ES Trader

      your observation seems like a more plausible view

    • Robert Thomas

      thucy, I’m put in mind of one of the most distasteful things I’ve ever seen on television, and I’m not exaggerating. It was a 2010 edition of The Newshour consisting of a round-table discussion of the events that resulted in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal.

      All present disgusted me by disparaging and insulting the work and the person of the late Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, tut-tutting about how his reporting (“The Runaway General”, RS June 22 2010) Wasn’t Quite The Thing, and how Hastings Wasn’t Quite The Gentleman and such other sewage. Hastings wasn’t present; I watched the segment a second time to find out if Hastings or anyone from Rolling Stone had been asked to participate or respond but no mention was made of this.

      In particular, chief among the participants who were asked to comment was fuzzy-headed, self congratulatory, self admiring John Burns of The Times, a man who never encountered a general officer whose nether regions he was not drawn to labially osculate. Burns exclaimed in low, received-limey tones at the effrontery of some scandal monger actually having reported what he’d seen and heard said. “Hear, hear!” they all responded. “What, what? Hear, hear.” What slop.

      I understand your affection and respect for The New York Times and agree that the larger issue is the direction in which Abramson seemed to try to take the paper with respect to international affairs and trepidation for the future, if the reason for her dismissal was indeed journalistic and not merely institutional (she does possess one of the most irritating vocal instruments I’ve ever heard; on the other hand, I don’t know what Arthur Sulzberger sounds like).

      Considering the Sulzberger’s choices of executive editors over the last thirty-five years, and considering Mr Baquet’s apparent reluctance to rock any Beltway Boats, my expectations for redemption at The Times in the direction Ms Abramson charted are dispiritingly low.

      Here’s what I see: I no longer trust journalism very much – I don’t mean blogery (which I don’t trust either), I mean traditional journalism. I don’t think many even well-regarded journalists are very well informed or particularly smart. I think most don’t get other, better paying jobs because they lack the skills and the character to pursue them. I wish I were not convinced in this way.

      • thucy

        Hi Robert,
        I laughed reading your spot-on comment about Burns.
        I do admire quite a few journalists. It was the NY Times that gave Chris Hedges early ballast – and the man does not disappoint! Mark Danner and Amy Wilentz come to mind as heroic. Muckraking Matt Purdy, too. Glenn Greenwald, of course. The late Ryzcard Kapuczinski. And the salty-mouthed but always on-point Matt Taibbi. Come on, Robert, let’s raise a metaphorical glass to the good guys, they still exist, and need our support!

  • Bob Fry

    Just because it’s a woman (or minority) fired doesn’t mean it’s for that reason. Over decades I’ve seen both retained for unwritten affirmative action counts in the face of obvious gross incompetence…as no doubt are white guys who are the boss’ golfing buddy.

    • ES Trader

      Agree

  • LF

    I hope that Jill Abramson sues the Times for the abrupt dismissal.

    • poot

      why?

  • Ben Rawner

    Why is there an assumption of Sexism. The times has been a leading paper but has been losing a ton of market share. Comparing a previous case with this current one is apples and oranges. Also, just because the former leader was hated doesn’t mean the owners hated them. It sounds like Abramson had a falling out with her boss, namely the owners. Assuming sexism creates a negative cloud around women’s issues and will taint all future endeavors for equality.

  • erictremont

    It is absurd to argue that men who are “brusque” or “pushy” always get away with obnoxious behavior. Don Rumsfeld, Rudy Giuliani, and Rahm Emanuel (to cite just 3 examples) are men with famously sharp elbows who at various points in their career have been subject to withering criticism (from both men and women) because of their management style. I have no idea whether Ms. Abramson is guilty of the same character traits, but I am tired of hearing that female leaders are being held to a different standard than male leaders.

    • Bob Fry

      Women and men may be held to different standards, but not unequal
      standards. A man with an overtly feminine style will be viewed with
      suspicion also.

    • Pete

      Brusque and an idiot as well, Rumsfeld served at high levels of government for 30+ years. Name one woman who has done the same!

      • erictremont

        Dianne Feinstein has been serving in high offices for about 35 years.

        • Pete

          You almost got me. Mayor of San Francisco doesn’t count! (also a twist of fate), and Feinstein is not brusque. Star of Unknown Known sets impossible mark – for a woman…

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Lynne Cheney? She was head of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • We have no accepted model for women when they raise they become empowered and raise themselves above obsequiousness and a servant demeanor. Their is a model for men of walk softly and carry a big stick, have a strong character. If a woman walks softly she is passed over and presumed to be passive and complaint. It isn’t even in the realm of possibility that she is a woman of strength and character.

    I also take exception to the one, perfect model for women. They need to turn themselves inside out to be the perfect employee/boss/et al. While men are most often excused and given get of jail free cards or even admired and revered (ala Steve Jobs) if they have a personality. There is a double standard.

    • Bob Fry

      Jobs was “revered” because he got results. It’s generally acknowledged he was an asshat, but was given a pass for delivering.

      • thucy

        The problem here is that Abramson WAS delivering. And for that, she was fired.
        We should be asking questions about why that happened at “the paper of record” – it’s not necessarily due to sexism.

        • ES Trader

          Delivering in whose view, her bosses in terms of top or bottom line, more subscriber’s ?

          I think reformers attempting the moral, high road often forget/ignore that a business and its shareholders nearly 100% of the are in it for profits and not for altruism.

          Jimmy Carter, may be considered a great President in the generations to come for his obsession with middle east peace instead of dealing with domestic,(yes economic) issues but when Reagan, now the patron saint of Republicans, asked ” are you better off than you were 4 years ago ?” no one could honestly say yes

      • Thx for reinforcing my point. The double standard is the priority for men is results, the priority for women is being likable.

        • ES Trader

          OK, give examples of women in business that achieved that level of results.

          Carla Fiorini, Carol Bartz ? Any female tech entrepreneurs that led development of smart phones, tablets, browsers, etc ?

    • ES Trader

      Steve Jobs, far from an ideal or perfect person, never the less achieved much because of his core beliefs, likely shaped by his being an orphan and the philosophy of producing quality that his adoptive father instilled, that eventually brought him the adoration and stature he received.

      Read isaccson’s biography, he was a tortured, complicated individual that experienced the pain of loss and rejection then redemption.

      I dont agree with you that a double standard applies.

  • Robert Thomas

    So far, this has been a languidly content-free discussion.

  • poot

    Sorry, had to leave, can’t take any more of the whinefest. Good God.

  • michael simler

    Did the statistic look into the difference in majors between men and women? More men study engineering than women. This might create the difference in pay expectations.

    • thucy

      Your premise is flawed. Neither Abramson nor the Sulzbergers are engineers. Further, the most remunerative industry in the US is not engineering, but finance, where the majority of executives are not engineers.

      • michael simler

        Yes I know they are not engineers. I was commenting on a statement made on the show about college graduates. Men expected $100k and women only $60k after some years in the workplace. I was trying to seek clarification of this statistic.

        • thucy

          Understood. I actually have some similar questions/skepticism about differences in expectations/pay between men and women. Sure, there’s sexism, but there are so many other factors.
          I’m just disappointed that the only prism through which we’re viewing Abramson’s dismissal is “sexism”. In my view, she was in many ways a reformer, and that’s where her problems at the Times began.
          She’ll be missed not just by women reporters and readers, but by the very aggressive male investigative reporters she championed.

  • A. Odabachian

    I have a personal anecdote which relates to your great discussion today. As a self-employed woman architect, I censored myself from bringing up parenthood related issues when my son was young for fear of seeming unprofessional.
    I was surprised one day overhearing a male colleague proudly announce to a client that he would have to delay a morning meeting because he had to take his son to school. It made his seem caring and responsible. I felt that had I said it, the comment would have made me seem like I was not up to my work responsibilities.

    • ES Trader

      i think that if his actions had a detrimental effect on other co-workers ( as a key member in the closing moments of a big deal ), he would’ve been criticized

      The one thing woman often lack is experience as a member in organized team sports that men often have. When the team loses repeatedly due to incompetence or lackadaisical play someone if not not the team leader or coach will speak up.

  • Niketana

    In higher education I’ve seen both women and men reluctant to criticize a woman dean or chair for fear of appearing intolerant or sexist. Eventually the criticisms and concerns come out in whispers at the local pub or cafe–‘I can see what those old guard males have been complaining about.’

    Most of my bosses have been women. Guess what? They have had wildly different personalities and egos. All are bright. The best are respectful, creative, honest, and trusting; the worst have been controlling and sardonic. Saccharine sweetness is not appealing in any case if it’s not accompanied by a strong core. Any boss who is an idealogue or on a mission is probably going to win devotees and alienate others.

    I have to do more research, but my own sense is that Abramson clashed with her superiors, not with her troops.

    • ES Trader

      Agreed ! Its more individual personalities and whether its racial or gender, it always arises when someone is fired, Mark Jackson just last week for example.

  • ES Trader

    I just listened to Jill Abramson interview on Youtube w/ Ken Auleta,(briefly) & I didnt hear anything in the sound of her voice as annoying.

    On the comments regarding women having to endure different standards in business leadership, I have issues.

    I have had woman and men that were my bosses in my career and my experience was that I have had male SOB’s as well as female B’s as bosses; I also had open-mined, fair, & patient bosses of both genders.

    Obviously there are differences due to gender but I think social, intelligence, personality differences in individuals are more significant reasons.

    Just like the recent Mark Jackson firing and the issue of race as the reason, all this B session whenever woman are fired just deters their appointment / hiring in the first place.

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