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Jill Abramson fired from the Times: Was it about money and sexism - or management style?

Jill Abramson fired from the Times: Was it about money and sexism - or management style?

On Tuesday, Jill Abramson was executive editor of The New York Times, 33 months into her tenure as the first woman to run the Times newsroom in the paper’s 161-year history.

Less than a day later, Abramson, 60, is no longer even an employee of the Times, having been fired with little warning by Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. for reasons he vaguely described as an effort to “improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom.”

In remarks at the Times’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters to hundreds of shocked editors, reporters and other employees, including Times Co. chief executive Mark Thompson—but not Abramson—Sulzberger named managing editor Dean Baquet, 57, as her successor, effective immediately.

Baquet’s appointment is at least as historic as Abramson’s was: He is the first African American to serve as top editor of the nation’s most influential news outlet.

“The mood overall seemed like shock, really. I think we were all kind of blindsided,” said a Times insider who attended Sulzberger’s surprise announcement, adding that people inside the paper were asking the same questions as those outside: Why? and Why now?

Abramson—who didn’t return a phone call seeking comment--clearly intended to hold the job for another five years, until she reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. “They’re gonna have to take me out feet first,” she told this reporter for a Newsweek magazine profile, “or chop off my head.”

It seems the latter has occurred. Thus a corporate guillotine ended a stellar career at the Times, which Abramson joined in 1997, serving as Washington bureau chief and managing editor after two decades at such publications as Time magazine, The American Lawyer, and The Wall Street Journal.

Apparently Abramson had no reason to believe her job was in jeopardy until this past weekend, when Sulzberger began talking to her about making a change.

Only nine months ago, Sulzberger invited Newsweek to breakfast with chief executive Thompson in order to show conspicuous support for Abramson, who had been the subject of a negative story in Politico that asserted that her editorship was already a failure, and that her abrasive manner had alienated so many Timesemployees that she was “on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom.”

Insisting that Abramson was an editor who “has got leadership” in her portfolio of talents, Sulzberger declared then: “Let’s agree that all of us are human, and all of us have our faults and our flaws. And when you’re looking for someone to be a leader, one of the things you’re looking for is self-awareness. Not to suggest you’re looking for perfection, because you’re not going to find that, but for someone who says, ‘Well, yeah, I can be that way; I’m focused on it; I recognize it.’ ”

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