Jill Abramson dismissed by the New York Times: Did the first woman editor of the newspaper commission her own downfall?

Covering her new British boss’s role in the Savile scandal and questioning why she was not paid as much as her male predecessor may have been to blame for her dismissal this week

US Editor

It was November 2012 and The New York Times news team had an interesting gift for their brand new president and chief executive, Mark Thompson. It was a lengthy article, questioning whether he had been entirely honest about what he did, and didn’t, know about the then burgeoning Jimmy Savile scandal before he left his previous job atop the BBC.

The person finally responsible for the paper running the story was its executive editor Jill Abramson, only in the job since the previous year. In hindsight the decision seems almost to have been designed to send a message to the incoming boss: “I am my own woman. News is my thing. If this risks damage to the executive floor, so be it.”

Now Ms Abramson, 60, is gone, dismissed not formally by Mr Thompson but by his boss, the chairman of the New York Times company, Arthur Sulzberger Jnr. If on that day in November 2012, Ms Abramson was telling the brass she was tough and they’d better deal with it, she now has her answer: they have dealt with her.

Attempts to reach out to the paper for any comment from Mr Thompson went unanswered. But that his relationship with Ms Abramson had been poisoned almost before he got his feet in the door of the paper’s skyscraper headquarters in midtown Manhattan has been widely documented. That said, it seems she had fallen foul of others, too, including Mr Sulzberger himself, who announced her dismissal to a stunned newsroom on Wednesday afternoon.

Equally frayed, it appears, was her relationship with her managing editor, Dean Baquet, who was named as her replacement. In a lengthy article last month, Politico reported a row between the pair that resulted in Mr Baquet storming out of her office and slamming a hand against a wall in anger. More recently, he blew up over an attempt by Ms Abramson to poach Janine Gibson, another Briton, to be co-managing editor alongside him.

The fact that Mark Thompson’s relationship with Jill Abramson had been poisoned was widely documented The fact that Mark Thompson’s relationship with Jill Abramson had been poisoned was widely documented (Getty ImageS)
Ms Gibson, who has spearheaded the growth of The Guardian’s US-based newsroom and who is shortly to return to London to take control of its global digital operations, confirmed the approach to one of her own reporters. “The New York Times talked to me about the role of joint managing editor, but I said no,” she said. It is not clear what part Mr Baquet’s fury may have played. “Not saying anything else,” she told The Independent.

Ms Abramson was known to be fiercely loyal to the paper, even to the extent of having its stylised “T” tattooed on her back. Her appointment in 2011 was seen by some as the old Grey Lady finally moving beyond its past as a male-led bastion. Once installed, she went to lengths to promote women to top jobs. That she may have been shown the exit for pushing her (still male) generals too hard will not sit well with many who lauded her elevation in the first place.

Most recent, it seems, was a claim by Ms Abramson that she was being paid less than her predecessor, Bill Keller. Whether or not she felt compelled to raise the issue as a matter of principle, it seemingly did not sit well with upstairs. Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, noted: “This may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy’, a characterisation that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.”

In earlier public statements, Mr Thompson has denied any rift between himself and Ms Abramson. But he can have barely have forgotten the Savile article that was published on his very first week. Its focus was a letter drafted by his own lawyers, on his behalf, warning The Sunday Times not to publish an article on the first revelations then percolating through the media about Mr Savile’s inappropriate contacts with young female fans. Mr Thompson was said at the time to have been unaware of the letter’s contents.

In October, as he was preparing to move to his new job at arguably the world’s most prestigious media title, Mr Thompson said in a statement that “during my time as Director-General of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile”. However, in its article The New York Times said the paper’s own inquiries about the content of the letter to The Sunday Times, had made clear “the degree to which Mr Thompson, in his final days at the BBC, had information at his fingertips about Mr Savile’s alleged abuse”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - London - £40K plus benefits - Salary negotiable

£38000 - £40000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: A leading consu...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Sheridan Maine: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?