Dismissal of NYT editor sparks debate on women in top media roles

Dismissal of NYT editor sparks debate on women in top media roles

The dismissal of The New York Times’ Jill Abramson has reignited discussions of a “glass cliff” facing women in top media roles.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

Abramson took the executive editor role in September 2011 but was reportedly fired on Wednesday (May 14) in favour of the paper’s managing editor, Dean Baquet.

Baquet is the first African American to take on the role but, as reported by The Guardian, “that milestone is likely to be overshadowed by the sudden dismissal of the paper's first female top editor in its 162-year history”.

Upon accepting the job in 2011 Ambramson said that although she knows she was appointed because she was the best person for the role, it was “meaningful” that a woman got to run the newsroom.

"I know I didn't get this job because I'm a woman; I got it because I'm the best qualified person,” she told Ed Pilkington in June 2011. “But nonetheless what it means to me is that the executive editor of the New York Times is such an important position in our society, the Times itself is indispensable to society, and a woman gets to run the newsroom, which is meaningful."

In a short statement after her dismissal Abramson said that during her tenure the paper became “half female for the first time”.

We successfully blazed trails on the digital frontier and we have come so far in inventing new forms of story-telling,” she said.

“Our masthead became half female for the first time and so many great women hold important newsroom positions.”

The dismissal has sparked controversy around the issue, with Frida Ghitis at CNN posing the question as to whether Abramson was fired because she is a woman.

“You can draw your own conclusions about why Jill Abramson was fired, but as we look at the history of her tenure as executive editor of The New York Times, the world's most prestigious and influential newspaper, and learn details about how it came to an end, women everywhere are shaking their heads,” Ghitis writes.

Ghitis also writes that Abramson had confronted her bosses on her total compensation, which was reportedly lower than her predecessor Bill Keller.

Ken Auletta of The New Yorker also reported similar findings with publisher Arthur Sulzberger saying it was not true Abramson had a lower compensation to others in her role before here.

Sulzberger reportedly told a “stunned newsroom” he had made the decision to dismiss Abramson because of an ““an issue with management in the newsroom”, according to The New York Times.

In a tongue-in-cheek response, Abramson’s daughter Cornelia Griggs instagrammed a photo of her mother in boxing gloves with the hashtag #pushy.

CNN Money welcomes Abramson to the club of other women who have been pushed out of the workplace, pulling together a slideshow of eight other women formerly in high roles.

“Welcome to the club, Jill Abramson,” the report said.

“Like the ousted New York Times editor, many well-known powerful women have lost their jobs at least in part due to forceful leadership styles.”

Also on the slideshow are Jill Barad, former CEO of Mattel, where as she was “forceful and flamboyant, she turned off some of her colleagues as well as investors”.

B&T is celebrating women in the media in this year’s Women in Media Awards presented at Mad Week on July 29, 2014. The awards recognise and reward achievements of business women working within the media industry across Australia. Entries are now closed for Women in Media, but make sure you get involved with Mad Week. Check it out here