Ousted Times editor tells new graduates to fight back
Monday, May 19, 2014 - 01:48
May 19 - Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times fired last week, gives commencement address at Wake Forest University. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
The New York Times' ousted top editor Jill Abramson made her first public remarks on Monday (May 19) not shying away from the controversy surrounding her departure and told graduates to fight back.
"Very early last Thursday my sister called me. She said 'I know Dad would be as proud of you today as the day you became Executive Editor of the New York Times.' I'd been fired the previous day so I knew what she was trying to say. It meant more to our father to see us deal with a setback and try to bounce back than to watch how we handled our successes.' Show what you are made of,' he would say," Abramson said.
Abramson delivered the commencement speech to students graduating from Wake Forest University in North Carolina after unusually scathing criticism of her management style leveled by Times' publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
She brought up Anita Hill, noting that the attorney who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment turned her insults into a badge of honor. Abramson co-wrote a book with New Yorker writer Jane Mayer about Thomas.
Sulzberger, whose family controls the New York Times Co, announced to a stunned newsroom on Wednesday (May 14) that he had replaced Abramson with her second-in-command, Dean Baquet. Abramson was the first woman appointed to lead the newsroom.
"Sure, 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. This is the work I will remain very much a part of," she told the audience.
Sulzberger's abrupt dismissal of the woman he hired three years ago sparked a firestorm of debate over women managers in the workplace. The controversy was fueled by a report in The New Yorker that said Abramson was paid less than her predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, and other male counterparts during her 17-year career at the paper.
Sulzberger has since twice spoken out to say that Abramson's compensation was not "considerably" less than that of Keller's - that it was directly comparable - and to deny she was removed because she is a woman.
In a statement on Saturday (May 17), Sulzberger targeted Abramson's management skills, ticking off a list of reasons including "arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring in colleagues with her, inadequate communication and public mistreatment of colleagues."
Abramson famously got a tattoo of the Times iconic "T" on her back. When asked if she was going to remove it, she said: "Not a chance."
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