For a Fired Editor, Life After the NYT
Jill Abramson speaks onstage at The Future of The New York Times on March 12, 2012 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sean Mathis/WireImage)
Dear Jill Abramson,
Everybody knows that you were axed a few days ago as executive editor of the New York Times, one of the most exalted positions in journalism.
No going-away party. No gracious announcement. Just suddenly disappeared (like a dissident in a dictatorship) from the Times masthead, the newsroom where you worked for 17 years and the life you led for the past 41 years, starting with your first job at Time Magazine.
I’m pretty sure you despise being the juicy story instead of scooping the story.
You must know that women working at newspapers 50 years ago — when the glass ceiling hovered above the Women’s Department or, with a stretch, the Arts Department (where I sat at a typewriter in the ‘60s as music critic at the Buffalo Courier-Express) — were thrilled beyond words when, in 2011, you became the first female editor-in-chief of the mighty New York Times.
It was something we couldn’t have imagined back when even a woman’s byline on anything but a recipe or a “society” story was a big deal.
But what I’m learning now from some pretty reputable reporting sources is that you, like many of us who moved into high-profile positions at newspapers, were resented, subjected to incessant nasty backbiting and malice, treated with less respect and paid less than men who had been doing the same job, less even than men who were in lesser positions.
When you pushed back, it seems, all that got you was more resentment for being “pushy.”
I don’t know of any man in any newsroom (or anywhere else, come to think of it) who’s ever been called pushy.
And, it’s been reported, when you asked a lawyer to make polite inquires about appropriate pay for your position, all that got you was the exit door.
What makes this especially newsworthy is that the New York Times is such a champion of equal pay and equal opportunities.
What I really want to tell you is something many of us discovered, to our amazement: there is life after newspapers.
I know it must seem hard to believe now that you can thrive without being part of the deadlines and dynamics of the Times, in the midst of its exciting, exasperating, transformation into becoming “digital first.”
You probably can’t even believe right now that you won’t be part of that. I’m guessing that your sense of loss is obliterating even the bitterness you feel.
At 60, you likely will move on to another high profile job at another media company.
Just don’t rush into anything because it feels like there’s a vacuum.
I know, from your delicious Puppy Diaries, the collected columns about raising your dog Scout, how much you love spending time with your dog — as well as your husband (not necessarily in that order) and your 29-year-old son and your 31-year-old daughter, a surgeon whose wedding last year was of course noted in the NYT Sunday Styles section.
On these budding summer weekends that you’ll spend at your country house in Connecticut (you won’t have to rush for that Monday morning train), I hope you’ll savour, at least for awhile, the joy of life that has nothing to do with news or how its covered but is bursting with nature and serenity.
And if, by chance, you want to take the time to write another book, I hope you’ll consider telling us, sparing no one, exactly what it was like, day by day, blow by blow, to be Jill Abramson at the New York Times.
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 21: (L-R) Architecture critic for The New York Times Michael Kimmelman, 2014 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, Executive Editor for The New York Times Jill Abramson, and Chairman and Publisher of The New York Times Company Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. attend the cocktail reception for the New York Times Cities for Tomorrow Conference on April 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Times)