The New York Times, the best-resourced newspaper in the US, found itself reeling from allegations of sexism and the fallout from a bungled media relations strategy after the abrupt dismissal of its executive editor.
A day after failing to give a detailed explanation for his decision to fire Jill Abramson, the first woman editor in the paper's 163-year history, publisher Arthur Sulzberger issued a statement denying it had been prompted by a row over her pay. "It is simply not true that Jill's compensation was significantly less than her predecessor," he said in a note to staff on Thursday.
Sulzberger stunned the newsroom on Wednesday when he announced Abramson's unceremonious departure at a hastily assembled gathering of staff, at which he said Abramson would be replaced immediately by her deputy, Dean Baquet.
But Sulzberger failed to give a convincing explanation for her dismissal, referring only vaguely to issues of newsroom management. That led to competing theories in a welter of media reports.
Abramson, 60, had been in the job less than three years. She was widely seen as a strong leader and ally for reporters. But she was also said to have caused friction with an occasionally abrasive manner. Reports had emerged of clashes between Abramson and not only other editors, but the paper's top executives: Sulzberger and CEO Mark Thompson.
The New Yorker's Ken Auletta reported Abramson had complained to superiors about being paid less than her male predecessors. Sulzberger said Abramson's "total compensation package" in the last year of her tenure was 10 per cent more than that of Bill Keller, her predecessor, in his final year, three years before.
"Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision," he wrote. "Nor did any discussion about compensation. The reason - the only reason - for that decision was concern I had about some aspects of Jill's management of our newsroom."
Abramson left without addressing the newsroom.