What Might Leadership Change Mean for Times Readers?
Secrets don’t normally last long at newspapers. But this was different: Most of the hundreds who gathered in the Times newsroom Wednesday afternoon were stunned by Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.’s announcement that Jill Abramson had been fired.
报社的秘密通常都藏不了多长时间。但这一次却有所不同：周三下午当小阿瑟·苏兹伯格(Arthur Sulzberger Jr.)在《纽约时报》新闻编辑部宣布吉尔·阿布拉姆松(Jill Abramson)已被免职时，聚集在此的数百人，大都震惊不已。
Since then, many have reported and speculated on why Ms. Abramson lasted less than three years in the job. The Times itself wrote a solidly reported story that pulled no punches. Even the headline told it like it is: There was no “stepping down,” no leaving to spend more time with family. “Times Ousts Its Executive Editor, Elevating Second in Command.” Ms. Abramson was not in the newsroom; no one, in this hastily called and awkward meeting, made an effort to soft-pedal what had happened.
此后，许多人对阿布拉姆松为何在这个职位上只干了不到三年，做了各种报道和揣测。《纽约时报》自己也写了一篇扎实的报道，没有遮遮掩掩。就连报道的标题“时报解雇主编，提拔二把手”(Times Ousts Its Executive Editor, Elevating Second in Command)也实话实说：不是“辞职”，也不是为了能有更多时间陪家人。当时，阿布拉姆松不在编辑部；在这次匆忙召开的尴尬会议上，没人试图低调处理已发生的事情。
Though it felt that way Wednesday, what happened is not all that shocking. Editors come and go. The newly elevated Dean Baquet is the fourth Times editor in the past dozen years.
What makes it feel different is two things. Ms. Abramson was the first woman in the job, and she didn’t leave on her own terms.
Publishers, like owners of baseball teams, get to make these decisions – and they continually do. When editors and publishers disagree, when the tension gets unbearable, realpolitik prevails: It’s the editor who is gone, not the publisher.
But let’s take a moment to celebrate the short but meaningful reign of Ms. Abramson. A brilliant journalist, she “kept the paper straight,” which was one of her stated aims; there was no scandal on her watch. She moved the journalism forward into the digital realm – let’s allow the word “Snowfall,” like “Rosebud,” to say it all. She defended press rights and stood up for her reporters, most notably with China coverage, staying the course when the going got tough. And her staff won eight Pulitzers during her short tenure (it should have been nine, in my view). And she wore her feminism on her sleeve in just the right way – not with overplaying stories about women’s issues, but with the determined promotion of qualified women into top roles. Her masthead was 50 percent women in recent months, a major change.
In an interview with Gotham magazine only weeks ago, she said one measure of her success as the first woman to lead the paper would be this: “When I leave, will there be several plausible female candidates to take my place?” Mr. Baquet will be assembling his own team in the next weeks and months. He has not just a couple of good internal female choices for top roles, but, remarkably, many.
For Times readers, the direction to look is not back but forward. Mr. Baquet is extremely well qualified. He is a prize-winning investigative reporter and an experienced, top-flight editor. His appointment also makes history; he is the first African-American executive editor of The Times. That he is gregarious and popular and possessed of well-honed “emotional intelligence” is a bonus – and one that will probably keep him in the job longer than most. He promised the staff to “listen hard,” and to “walk the room.”
I fervently hope that he will be an editor who pushes back hard against powerful interests, including the highest levels of the U.S. government, and who encourages journalism that champions the least fortunate — and the survival of the planet. I also hope that he will put his foot firmly on the gas pedal and keep it there, accelerating the drive into the digital future.
Was the firing of Ms. Abramson related to gender-related pay inequality, as some readers have told me in emails today that they believe, after reading press coverage? The Times is denying that vociferously, saying that Ms. Abramson’s pay was “directly comparable” to that of her predecessor, Bill Keller. I’m pressing for the details on this, and have reason to think I’ll have something more soon.
Has The Times lacked transparency in its handling of the change, as others are complaining? Both sides have signed a nondisparagement agreement; that’s normal these days. In the staff meeting, Mr. Sulzberger praised Ms. Abramson’s journalism but said “we had an issue with management in the newsroom.” Some readers told me they worry that sexism underlies that. 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. 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.
I’ve read many press accounts, some better than others, over the past nearly 24 hours. I’ll say this much: If you want to know what happened, your best bet is to read the detailed and unsparing story on the front page of today’s New York Times. From all I can tell, it was reported “without fear or favor.” That’s a good sign.
Updated, 2:39 p.m. | Mr. Sulzberger sent this memo to Times staff members this afternoon. I have asked Ms. Abramson for comment and will add that if I get it. I also asked The Times’s spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, if the parity referred to in the email below occurred after a complaint. “No, absolutely not,” she said. “There was no such adjustment. That’s false.”
The memo is as follows.
I am writing to you because I am concerned about the misinformation that has been widely circulating in the media since I announced Jill Abramson’s departure yesterday. I particularly want to set the record straight about Jill’s pay as Executive Editor of The Times.
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. 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.
Comparisons between the pensions of different executive editors are difficult for several reasons. Pensions are based upon years of service with the Company. Jill’s years of service were significantly fewer than those of many of her predecessors. Secondly, as you may know, pension plans for all managers at The New York Times were frozen in 2009. But this and all other pension changes at the Company have been applied without any gender bias and Jill was not singled out or differentially disadvantaged in any way.
Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation. 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.
This Company is fully committed to equal treatment of all its employees, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. We are working hard to live up to that principle in every part of our organization. I am satisfied that we fully lived up to that commitment with regard to Jill.