Why Abramson's Firing Triggers Larger Questions About NYT's Future

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Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:46 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Jill Abramson's sudden dismissal as executive editor of The New York Times on Wednesday will have a lasting mark on the newspaper, adding to its struggle to stay afloat in the digital media era, according to Politico.

The political news website said three factors guarantee that the decision the way it was carried out will "ricochet longer and more intensely than just another job shuffle atop a newspaper."

The "uncommonly bloody manner of execution," Politico said, was notable. While  Abramson had been criticized for a harsh personality, "it was no harsher than the treatment handed her by former patrons," according to the story by John F. Harris, Politico's editor in chief, and Hadas Gold.

The firing was abrupt with no attempt to disguise that it was involuntary, and scant mention was made of her achievements, "which included eight Pulitzer Prizes under her watch," Politico said.

Instead, Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. simply said he was forced to dismiss her because of "an issue with management in the newsroom." Sulzberger replaced Abramson with Dean Baquet, the managing editor. He became the first African American to become top editor at the Times.

There will also be a renewed interest in the issue of gender in the workplace and the treatment of women, Politico said. Abramson was the first woman to lead the Times and questions are being raised whether discrimination against her gender was at the root of the intolerance about her style.

Finally, Politico says, questions will be raised about the leadership and long-term vitality of the newspaper given the destabilization at the top, and multiple changes in senior staff under Sulzberger in the last ten years.

Politico says these issues will continue to resonate within the media even though it is still unclear what precisely was behind Sulzberger's decision to fire Abramson, who was highly respected by defenders and rivals alike.

"The question remains: Was there something new or just an accumulation of doubts about her management style that have been percolating in a semi-public fashion? Did a dispute over compensation, itself infused with overtones of gender, hasten her dismissal — an assertion the Times denied?" Politico concluded.

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