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In Abramson firing, Times says gender not an issue

Sulzberger says gender had no part in Abramson's firing.
Sulzberger says gender had no part in Abramson's firing.
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On Saturday afternoon, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., released a statement defending Abramson's firing as a decision that stemmed from her poor performance as a manager and not as a result of gender or disputes over pay.

"I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back," Sulzberger wrote, adding that he had "heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues."

Sulzberger also fired back at reports that Abramson's earned less than Bill Keller, her predecessor as executive editor. The New Yorker's Ken Auletta had broken the news that when Abramson first took the job in 2011, her pay was $84,000 less than Keller's $559,000 that year. Sulzberger said that Abramson's total pay package was 10 percent higher than Keller's at the time that she left.

"[I]t doesn't help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal," he wrote.

Sulzberger said that the Times' other women leaders and young reporters "do not look for special treatment." That said, the Times has a gap when it comes to women writers.

As the Times' public editor noted in a column published just two days before Abramson's firing, the Times has the lowest representation of women on its pages among the 10 top newspapers. According to a recent study from the Women's Media Center, with 69 percent of its bylines coming from men.

Read the full statement, as reported by the Times' Ravi Somaiya, below:

Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace. Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.

Fueling this have been persistent but incorrect reports that Jill's compensation package was not comparable with her predecessor's. This is untrue. Jill's pay package was comparable with Bill Keller's; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10% higher than his.

Equal pay for women is an important issue in our country - one that The New York Times often covers. But it doesn't help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal.

I decided that Jill could no longer remain as executive editor for reasons having nothing to do with pay or gender. As publisher, my paramount duty is to ensure the continued quality and success of The New York Times. Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out.

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues. I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom. She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them. We all wanted her to succeed. It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom. While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times. Many of our key leaders - both in the newsroom and on the business side - are women. So too are many of our rising stars. They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues. For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance. That is what happened in the case of Jill.

Equality is at the core of our beliefs at The Times. It will always be.