Live: Why Jill Abramson was fired

Jill Abramson, the ousted boss at the New York Times, is expected to speak for the first time about her firing from the Times. She’s giving the commencement speech this morning at Wake Forest.

Watch it here.

Update: “I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you,” Abramson told the graduates after saying she didn’t know what she’ll do now. “I’m impressed that your achievements have attracted so much media attention here today.”

She paid tribute to Katherine Graham, the former head of the Washington Post, who, she said, faced discrimination; as well as Anita Hill, the woman who challenged then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. “Anita was one of the many people who wrote me last week to say she was proud of me,” she said.

“Losing a job you love hurts, but the work I revere — journalism that holds powerful institutions and people accountable — is what makes our democracy so resilient,” she said.

She urged the graduates to “get on with your knitting,” concluding a 12-minute speech in which she said the only real news at Wake Forest today is their graduation.

Meanwhile, the New Yorker has released the third part of its series on why Abramson was ousted.

For the most part, writer Ken Auletta has been generally apologetic for publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Sulzberger has been, to say the least, an imperfect steward of the paper; he has presided over some disastrous investments (About.com) and disastrous appointments (Howell Raines). But he was surely smart enough to know that firing Abramson, the first female editor of the paper, would set off nightmarish publicity.

The suggestion that Sulzberger may have practiced a double standard in pay must be especially painful for him. He can be faulted for many things, but he has championed the traditional news values of the paper and prides himself on being a leader in diversity, showing a far more welcoming attitude toward gay and minority employees than previous publishers; he hired the first woman to lead the newsroom, and now the first African-American, and has made a point of urging diversity in general. And so it must have been especially galling for him to be at the center of criticism regarding gender, and it had to play a role in his finally coming out with such a sharp, counter-punching statement about Abramson’s management of the paper and its employees.

Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post says the Abramson story is a good example of how not to fire a woman.

7) If you hire a woman, you have to work with a woman and women are icky and have cooties and sometimes families.
8) What if she really IS a witch?
9) What if she mentors young women? What if people start thinking this is normal? Will we have to go through this later with them?
10) Unfortunately, the sole set of circumstances where people will actually encourage you to remove an Empowered Female Head of Something or Other is in cases where she is literally Paula Deen. Which happens both more and less often than one might like.

  • KTFoley

    “A master class in how not to fire a woman” does refer to the goings-on at the NY Times. It turns out to be the lead-in to Petri’s main topic, a satire on why not to hire a woman in the first place. Gotta say, though, that her summary is probably dead on:

    “If the only way to carve an elephant is to sit down with a large block of marble and chip off everything that does not look like an elephant, the way to fire an executive editor is to sit down with a large block of marble and chip off everything that does look like the Jill Abramson firing.”

    • KTFoley

      My mistake: Petri’s wording is “a master class in How Not to Fire Someone” — the mistakes are applicable to all.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I think this is the ultimate fishbowl story. It can’t rate very high on Americans’ radar.