Jill Abramson, the first woman executive editor of the New York Times, has been unceremoniously fired for reasons that are still unclear. Some say that after just a few years the publisher was unhappy with how she was performing her job, especially as the Times, like all other traditional newspapers, has struggled to stay relevant in our digital world. Others say her sudden push off the “glass cliff” is because she recently discovered that not only was she being paid less than her predecessor, but she was also making less money than some of her current male subordinates.
The blogosphere and online outlets are abuzz with all Abramson, all the time because there’s nothing the media like better than a juicy scandal in its own back yard. But so far most of the noise is speculation because Abramson isn’t talking and spokespeople for the “Gray Lady” keep coming up with slightly different versions of how and why Abramson was abruptly fired. Some are attributing it to allegations that Abramson was a “pushy,” brusque and demanding boss — qualities that are usually admired, or at least tolerated, in men.
Instead of opining on what I think happened or how I think things should have been handled or whether “pushy” is the new “bossy,” I thought I’d try something refreshingly old-fashioned — some research to learn more about who Abramson is as a person to get a better sense of her and her thoughts before and during her tenure leading the Times.
In a quirky stroke of coincidence, Abramson sat down one year ago for a talk with Marlo Thomas, who was interviewing various women in advance of her new book, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over: Reinventing Your Life and — Realizing Your Dreams — Anytime, Any Age. They discussed, among other things, how Abramson dealt with sexist criticism of being “too tough” as a woman boss. Abramson admitted that she, as other women leaders, are often “autopsied” on their stylistic issues in ways that men never are. You can pick up that part of the conversation, which is especially prescient today, at around the 20:00 mark of the video:
Abramson is a former investigative journalist. I suspect she will be using those skills, and her literary connections in the future, to do some writing on what happens to “pushy” broads in powerful positions.