Ousted NYT Editor Abramson Refused to Sign Non-Disparagement Deal

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 07:27 PM

By John A. Oswald

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The New York Times tried to get axed editor Jill Abramson to sign a non-disparagement agreement – and she refused.

"Just as I’m not going to end my job at the New York Times by lying, I’m not giving up my right to free speech," Abramson said, according to New Yorker media critic Ken Auletta.

Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger wanted Abramson to say that the decision was hers to go but she refused that too.

The New York media lapped up the latest black eye for The Grey Lady.

"Jill Abramson Can Talk Bad About the New York Times Whenever She Feels Like It," read a headline atop New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer column.

Abramson did agree not to discuss how much money she got out of Sulzberger, who said after news broke, that managing editor Dean Baquet was getting the top spot and that the change was made due to "an issue with management in the newsroom." Abramson had clashed with Sulzberger over salary and compensation, believing her male predecessors had been paid more, Auletta has written.

Politico reports that with nothing barring her from speaking, "Abramson may address the details regarding her termination at some point in the future."

But probably no time soon, Auletta says.

He writes: "She does not want, friends say, to define herself as a disgruntled, terminated editor rather than as the distinguished journalist she has unquestionably been. Nor is there any motivation for Baquet to publicly describe what happened. It would just keep the story alive, divide the newsroom, and, perhaps, suggest to many that he got Abramson fired. It’s an unpleasant tale—one of bruised relationships, conflicting accusations, and a wounded, essential institution."

The main clash, it seems, was between Abramson, the first woman top editor and Baquet, her No. 2 who is now the first African American to run The Times.

Politico has reported that Baquet was furious that she wanted to hire The Guardian's Janine Gibson, who ran the digital U.S. operation of the British paper, as co-managing editor.

"Baquet has told friends that she did not clue him in,"Auletta writes.

This, however, after he had a lunch with Gibson that Abramson reportedly arranged.

"Could there have been room for a simple misunderstanding, rather than that Abramson deliberately misled Baquet or Sulzberger?" Auletta writes. "It would make no sense, Abramson’s friends say, for her to send Baquet to lunch with Gibson without having told Baquet about the job offer."

He adds: "In either scenario, a close friend of hers added, 'It’s just plain ridiculous that she should be fired for not telling a subordinate about a job offer to another subordinate.'"

Gibson had previously told Auletta: "It was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed. Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.'"

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