No one knows the exact reason The New York Times fired its executive editor, Jill Abramson, this week – but many jumped on the “she was fired because she demanded equal pay” bandwagon.

One of the first stories to break, Ken Auletta’s piece in The New Yorker, quoted unnamed sources saying Abramson had “confronted the top brass” when she “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.”

Now considering the Times has long championed the so-called “wage gap” and “equal pay for equal work” mantras on its editorial pages for years, it would be easy to point out how hypocritical the organization now appears for not being able to live up to its own rhetoric.


In a written statement, the Times’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., dismissed the pay charge:

Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation. The reason — the only reason — for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment.

Several stories, including ones written by Times staffers, reported that colleagues said Abramson was hard to get along with, had an abrupt management style, and wasn’t acting fast enough to move the Times into the digital age.

The reality is this – whether in hiring or firing, it is rare that a personnel decision is based on only one factor. As appears to be the case here, an employee makes decisions over time that either help or hurt in the eyes of the employer. Abramson had almost three years as executive editor to prove she was the best person to lead the Times and would set it up better than anyone else for future journalistic and financial success. If she had convinced the publisher during that period, I doubt very seriously that pay would have been an issue.