MEDIA

New York Times' first woman executive editor Jill Abramson sacked

Executive editor Jill Abramson fired after three years amid reports of clashes with publisher and will be replaced by deputy Dean Baquet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 1:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 1:24am

The New York Times has fired its executive editor, Jill Abramson, ending a stormy three-year tenure by the first woman to lead the prestigious newspaper in its 163-year history.

The Times said Abramson would be succeeded by her top deputy, managing editor Dean Baquet. A former Los Angeles Times editor, Baquet becomes the first black chief editor of TheNew York Times.

Abramson, who worked in Washington for The Wall Street Journal and was later the Times' Washington bureau chief, was sacked by Arthur Sulzberger Jnr, chairman of the New York Times Co and publisher of the paper.

In remarks to the newspaper's journalists disclosing the management change, Sulzberger never explicitly said Abramson, 60, had been fired.

But he made no effort to suggest that she was leaving of her own accord. He said he chose "to appoint a new leader for our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom".

Baquet, 57, said in a statement: "It is an honour to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago, one that approaches the world with wonder and ambition every day."

Abramson and Baquet had reportedly clashed over the newspaper's daily direction and management.

Some at the Times have been critical of Abramson's "aloof'" management style and her appointments, which favoured younger journalists over more experienced Times veterans.

Abramson had also clashed with Sulzberger recently, but it was unclear what their differences were.

Another factor, they said, was Abramson's souring relationship with Mark Thompson, chief executive of the New York Times Co and a former journalist at the BBC whom Sulzberger recruited to the company in 2012.

A former Times executive said the relationship with Thompson got off to a rocky start when the newspaper pursued allegations of widespread sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, the BBC television presenter who died in 2011.

Thompson headed the BBC when the allegations came to light. A point of particular friction was when the Times published an article in November 2012 that raised questions over whether Thompson had been truthful about when he learned of the allegations.

According to the former Times executive, Sulzberger was also dismayed when Abramson didn't initially head to the newsroom after Hurricane Sandy hit the New York metropolitan area in October 2012.

Her absence gave the impression that she wasn't sufficiently engaged in the day-to-day management of a major story, and this was intensified by Abramson's absences to attend conferences and speaking engagements, the executive said.

There were also clashes with Thompson over his emphasis on increasing the Times' digital video offerings and hiring of more digital editors.

The sacking of Abramson shocked many at the Times and elsewhere. The newspaper has rarely replaced its top editor before retirement. Abramson's immediate predecessor, Bill Keller, held the job for eight years.

She is the second Times editor since 2003 to leave the job prematurely. The first was Howell Raines, who resigned that year amid a scandal involving plagiarism and concocted stories by a Times reporter, Jayson Blair.

In a statement released by the Times, Abramson said: "I've loved my run at the Times. I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism."

She noted that her appointment of woman senior editors was one of her achievements.