Abramson Firing: Did NY Times Forget to Read Its 90 Pieces on Equal Pay?

Is “The Gray Lady” that way because the sexist owners of The New York Times won’t pay her enough for a proper dye job? This and other delightfully schadenfreude-alicious questions are worth pondering now that the paper has “unexpectedly” fired executive editor Jill Abramson on May 14.

Abramson stepped into that role on September 2011, becoming the first female executive edtior at the Times, according to AdWeek. And according to several reports at least part of the reason was because she made a fuss about being paid less than her predecessor.

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta wrote on May 14 that “with any such upheaval there’s a history behind it.” Auletta said Abramson “confronted” Times management after finding out her pay and benefits “were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller.” Auletta also mentioned other dust-ups with management and Arthur Sulzberger’s growing “frustration” with Abramson.

NPR’s David Folkenflik said on Twitter that he “independently confirmed” she had challenged “what she saw as unequal pay.” The Times responded to the allegation saying her “total compensation” was “not less” than Keller’s, Huffington Post reported.

But If the pay discrepancy charge is accurate, the Times’ hypocrisy is showing. Since Abramson became executive editor, the newspaper ran 90 pieces mentioning “equal pay,” not including many more blogs on the subject. The 90 articles included 21 op-eds or editorials on the subject, and 69 news, finance, sports, entertainment and other articles. That total also doesn’t include articles that were about equal pay but used other phrasing such as “wage gap” or “gender pay gap.”

During Abramson’s tenure, the Times insisted again and again that equal pay is a problem that needs fixing.

“Pay Gap Is Because of Gender, Not Jobs,” declared one April 24, 2014, headline. An editorial on April 10, 2014, said it was an “economic imperative” to deal with “the wage gap between women and men.” Even in the Arts and Leisure section, a profile of actress Kerry Washington wasn’t complete without mentioning her speech at the Democratic National Convention speech which “touched on a laundry list of rights, among them voting, abortion, equal pay ...”

In June 2013, the Times praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., for his “excellent” bill which “pushes for equal pay for women and provides safeguards against housing discrimination among other features” and said it “deserves to be passed as is.”

The Times also frequently credited the Obama administration with trying to do something about equal pay, even though the American Enterprise Institute found that there is a wage gap between men and women within the White House.

Perhaps the Times forgot all about the Sept. 2, 2012, story from the Business Desk about “‘Good Girls’ Fight to Be Journalists.” That article focused on a book about gender discrimination in journalism and the fight of women to write for newspapers and magazines, who later fought for equal pay as well.

On the other hand, maybe when it comes to their own business and bottom line, the Times isn’t quite as liberal as it would have people believe.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.