Media Death

One Grey Lady Fires Another

May 27, 2014

Multiple Pages
One Grey Lady Fires Another

Within my lifetime, The New York Times will close its doors for good. “It’s not even a newspaper anymore,” Dennis Miller likes to say. “It’s just a building acrobats climb.”

So adding to the thousands of words already written about the dismissal of its first female executive editor Jill Abramson (allegedly for being “bossy” and/or demanding the same compensation as her male counterparts) seems as peevish and pointless as picking apart a condemned man’s last meal.

Especially because we can never really know what goes on behind closed doors, of either the bedroom or the office variety. Reading articles about places I’ve worked, people I’ve known, and events I’ve attended helped convince me long ago that journalism is mostly bunk.

“If Abramson’s ‘management style’ was a firing offense, can we talk about that time ‘Pinch’ Sulzberger brought a stuffed moose to an all-hands staff meeting?”

The Times itself contributed to my skepticism. This is, after all, the newspaper that won a Pulitzer for intentionally lying about Stalin’s starvation of a million Ukrainians; that manufactured and marketed the socially toxic urban legends surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder; that ran hundreds of Jayson Blair’s fabricated stories—and got the dates of the moon landing and Martin Luther King’s assassination wrong (among many other things) in the paper’s Walter Cronkite obit.

That’s one of my favorites, because the writer’s excuse was that when she double-checked those dates, she wrote them down wrong. See, I once had this wacky idea that to get a job at The New York Times—the so-called “paper of record”—to begin with, you’d have to be the kind of person who wouldn’t need to look up dates like that in the first place.

Yet Alessandra Stanley still works—and makes mistakes—at The Times, and Jill Abramson does not. Not even her tattoo saved her.

Abramson has four tattoos, something you’d never guess by looking at her. One of them is—her words—“the amazing ‘T’ in The New York Times newspaper,” one of the “institutions I revere.”

While I’m no oil painting myself, being female, I can’t help but add that you’d also never guess by looking at her that Jill Abramson is, too. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if it turned out she technically wasn’t “fired for being a woman” because she wasn’t a woman to start with?

Observers seem determined to imbue Abramson’s dismissal with Some Kind of Meaning. Like everything else of alleged import that occurs within the liberal universe, this cosmically trivial event must surely be Symbolic of Something Else, some despicable (and probably imaginary) systemic cardinal sin of world-historic proportions. In this case, Abrahamson was let go because patriarchy, as the kids say these days.

I hate to say it, but maybe they’re onto something, for once. Staffer Dean Baquet reportedly threw “a temper tantrum after one meeting with Abramson. Upon leaving her office he ‘slammed his hand against a wall and stormed out of the newsroom.’”  That’s the sort of behavior that can get you escorted out of the building by security, carrying the contents of your desk in a brown banker’s box.

Except at The New York Times. Abramson’s old job went to Dean Baquet.

I’ve been relying on veteran media-watcher Ed Driscoll to render the Abramson saga, if not understandable or even meaningful, at the very least entertaining to those of us who enjoy watching the liberal elites try to swallow, and keep down, their own “identity politics” excrescence.

Driscoll has been helpfully dredging up some of The Times’ many intramural sins, both venal and mortal, painting an unflattering portrait of the paper’s weird corporate culture. If Abramson’s “management style” was a firing offense, can we talk about that time “Pinch” Sulzberger brought a stuffed moose to an all-hands staff meeting?

Driscoll also reminded me that, in the year and a half after a neighboring building of some import had been reduced to a smoldering crater, the brave crusading male feminists at The New York Times ran “nearly 100 stories,” many of them on Page One, courageously denouncing the Augusta National Golf Club’s “sexist” refusal to permit women to become members. (“Good DAY, sir!”)

“In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion,” Abramson said right after her promotion not three years ago. Of course, since that quote appeared in The New York Times itself, I’m hesitant to believe it is accurate. What Abramson believes now, I couldn’t say.



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