In a move that shocked the newspaper world yesterday, The New York Times fired executive editor Jill Abramson and replaced her with managing editor Dean Baquet.
Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. informed the staff of the changes at a quickly assembled meeting, citing “an issue with management in the newsroom” as the reason for the firing.
Employees were stunned as Abramson, who took over as executive editor in September 2011, had been expected to continue in that position for another five years until she reached the paper’s mandatory retirement age of 65.
She must have thought so as well, since she admitted to Out magazine last month that she had a tattoo of the Times’ iconic “T” on her back.
That type of fealty to the Times, however, was apparently not enough to overcome what some described as her “bossy” management style, and clashes with other executives at the paper.
Last year, The New Yorker reported that Abramson was “chafing” at new CEO Mark Thompson’s moves in the newsroom. But the final straw, apparently, was her decision to try and hire Janine Gibson from The Guardian and install her alongside Baquet as a co-managing editor, without consulting him. That didn’t sit well with Baquet, and attracted the attention of Sulzberger.
In January, Abramson called the Obama White House the “most secretive” that she’s ever dealt with, which, even though it is true, probably didn’t enamor her with her liberal colleagues.
Baquet who promised to “walk the newsroom” in an effort to heal the rifts that developed under Abramson’s tenure, and as a result of her sudden departure, assumes the reins at the same age (57) that she was when she took over. So theoretically he has eight years to make his mark, though that’s no guarantee, as Abramson learned.
Here is Sulzberger’s memo announcing the change.
I am writing to announce a leadership change in the newsroom. Effective today, Dean Baquet will become our new executive editor, succeeding Jill Abramson.
This appointment comes at a time when the newsroom is about to embark on a significant effort to transition more fully to a digital-first reality and where, across the organization, we are all learning to adapt to the rapid pace of change in our business.
We owe Jill an enormous debt of gratitude for positioning the newsroom to succeed on both of these critical counts and of course, for preserving and extending the level of our journalistic excellence and innovation. She’s laid a great foundation on which I fully expect Dean and his colleagues will build.
As those of you who know Dean will understand, he is uniquely suited to this role. He is a proven manager, both here at The Times and elsewhere. He is also a consummate journalist whose reputation as a fierce advocate for his reporters and editors is well-deserved. And importantly, he is an enthusiastic supporter of our push toward further creativity in how we approach the digital expression of our journalism.
I know you will join me, Mark and the rest of the senior leadership team in wishing Jill the best and congratulating Dean on his appointment.