There is speculation tonight whether or not a dispute over salary inequities eventually led to the firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.
On Wednesday, Jill Abramson was ousted as executive editor of The New York Times, a job she held for three years. She was replaced by Dean Baquet, the managing editor, in what The Times even referred to as an abrupt change of leadership. Rumors are bubbling that Abramson was forced out when she found out she was paid less than her predecessor, Bill Keller, and started asking questions. In an article for The New Yorker, Ken Auletta writes that Abramson was essentially punished for confronting the paper's "top brass, " including publisher Arthur Sulzberger, over the salary issue:
Several weeks ago, I'm told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. "She confronted the top brass," one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management's narrative that she was "pushy," a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.
Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity.
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson's total compensation as executive editor "was directly comparable to Bill Keller's"—though it was not actually the same.
Murphy and the Times doubled down on this sentiment in emails to POLITICO:
"Jill's total compensation as executive editor was not less than Bill Keller's, so that is just incorrect," New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told POLITICO on Wednesday. "Her pension benefit, like all Times employees, is based on her years of service and compensation. The pension benefit was frozen in 2009."
And to Business Insider:
"Jill's total compensation as executive editor was not meaningfully less than Bill Keller's, so that is just incorrect," Murphy wrote in an email to Business Insider. "Her pension benefit, like all Times employees, is based on her years of service and compensation. The pension benefit was frozen in 2009."
Note the discrepancy between "not less" and "not meaningfully less" in the two statements. In an email to Gawker, Murphy declined to divulge specifics of either Keller's or Abramson's salary, but offered yet another statement:
There is no discrepancy. Jill's compensation was directly comparable to Bill's during their times as executive editor. Not less, not meaningfully less, not considerably less (as reported in the NY'er), directly comparable.
Guys, I respect Ken Auletta immensely. He is among the best. But please know you're only getting one spin on the story here.
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) May 14, 2014
Sulzberger and Abramson clashed. Baquet and Abramson clashed. Thompson and Abramson clashed. The salary issue is a red herring.
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) May 15, 2014
@JuddLegum I'm saying it wasn't the reason she was fired.
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) May 15, 2014
David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent, gave a pretty epic rundown of the situation on his Twitter earlier tonight.
And you thought the Beyonce/Solange/JayZ ElevatorGate story had drama. Pffft.
Finally, The New York Times reported on Abramson's ousting this evening, citing clashes Abramson had with fellow editors and tension with Sulzberger, but making no mention of any issue over salary:
Ms. Abramson, 60, had been in the job only since September 2011. But people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tension in her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, who had been hearing concerns from employees that she was polarizing and mercurial. They had disagreements even before she was appointed executive editor, and she had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet.
In recent weeks, people briefed on the situation said, Mr. Baquet had become angered over a decision by Ms. Abramson to try to hire an editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install her alongside him a co-managing editor position without consulting him. It escalated the conflict between them and rose to the attention of Mr. Sulzberger.
Buzzfeed's Jessica Testa just noticed something interesting in The Times' reporting on this story:
why did the Times change its description of Jill Abramson from "mercurial and brusque" to "polarizing and mercurial" ?http://t.co/j96pF00pzy
— jessica testa (@jtes) May 15, 2014
By the way, if I see a variation the word "clash" one more time, it's going to cause me to permanently hear Sandinista! in my head for the rest of my life.
In the midst of all of the back-and-forth and speculation, there's one major point that shouldn't get overlooked:
Despite the shock of the news - welcoming the first black executive editor of the New York Times is a historic moment.
— ▵ Jenna Wortham ▵ (@jennydeluxe) May 14, 2014
Image via Getty.