NYT Scrambles After Ousting Abramson

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 02:05 PM

By Jon Friedman

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The New York Times, widely acknowledged to be the finest newspaper n the United States (if not the entire world), has a big image problem.

It has nothing to do with the usual high quality of the newspaper. It has instead everything to do with the way women, in particular, regard the Grey Lady these days.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman of the Times Company and the publisher of the newspaper, stunned Times employees and the rest of the journalism community last week when he unexpectedly ousted Jill Abramson, the paper's executive editor.

This was no ordinary firing. Abramson had been hailed only three years ago when she became the first female top Times editor, signaling a progressive step by the most conspicuous newspaper brand in the world. Feminists cheered the move as a sign of recognition that women were not only capable journalists but respected for their leadership ability.

Now Abramson is in the Times' rearview mirror. Her managing editor, Dean Baquet, a very gifted and respected journalist in his own right, has succeeded Abramson. Word is leaking out that Abramson angered Sulzberger with her protests of being paid less money than her predecessor and her cheek in hiring a lawyer to defend her rights.

Plus, naturally, there were the predictable complaints at the Times about Abramson's occasional brusqueness. (Find me a newspaper editor anywhere who doesn't occasionally have to play the role of the bad cop and kick some newsroom butt.)

The women who basked in Abramson's glow three years ago now feel betrayed.

The Times has to win back their confidence. It won't be easy. The paper will likely consult high-priced crisis-management consultants, who will draw up complex media-relations strategies. But the Times has to make progress in baby steps. Once people feel this betrayed, they tend to hold on to their anger.

Abramson delivered the commencement address at Wake Forest on Monday. The world tensed beforehand to see if Abramson would take advantage of the speaking opportunity to reveal her inner feelings. But she kept it classy and did not embarrass her former Times' boss (or, for that matter, herself). She took the high road.

If the Times had done this all along, it would have so much less explaining to do.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

 

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