The Story of Jill Abramson’s Dismissal from the Times

It came as a shock to the journalism community earlier this month when it was announced that Jill Abramson was fired as executive editor.  To the outside world the paper seemed to be running successfully under her leadership, and she had only held the position since September 2011.

To many the abrupt dismissal of Abramson was alarming.  The paper had won eight Pulitzer Prizes under her leadership and she “won praise for journalistic efforts both in print and on the web,” according to The New York Times.

As news of the situation first broke, many news outlets still had very little idea as to why Abramson was terminated.  Publications quickly began peeling back layers as news disseminated out of sources at The Gray Lady.

“In the gossipy world of New York journalism, the firing of Jill Abramson from her position as the executive editor of the Times provoked a veritable explosion of talk, posts, and Instagram pictures of the objects of interest,” wrote Ken Auletta, a writer for The New Yorker.

Auletta continued to explain, “And a day after her dismissal, even more details are emerging why Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher, felt compelled to dismiss yet another executive editor who he himself had anointed.”

As the story continued to evolve, it was quickly realized that tensions between Abramson and Sulzberger had been high for a while.  When Sulzberger first made the decision to appoint Abramson to executive editor it wasn’t with much confidence.  He had considered promoting Dean Baquet, then managing editor at the Times, but ultimately decided on Abramson.  That decision also had its lingering effects on the relationship between Abramson and Baquet, who would later go on to replace Abramson after her dismissal.

“In one publicized incident, [Baquet] angrily slammed his hand against a wall in the newsroom,” it read in the Times.  “According to people familiar with his thinking, he was growing frustrated working with her.”

But the relationship between Sulzberger, Baquet and Abramson wasn’t the only issue to arise from her untimely dismissal.  A few weeks prior to her firing Abramson came to believe that she was being paid substantially less than her male predecessor.  Her pay became such an issue that she hired a lawyer to represent her, according to the The New Yorker.  In addition to the tension in the newsroom, Abramson’s step to hire a lawyer was seen as the last straw.

Just as Abramson’s appointment to executive editor was considered a milestone for The New York Times Company as the first woman to take the position, Baquet’s promotion will be similarly unique as he is the first African-American to hold the title of executive editor.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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