Arthur O. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times: Apologize to Jill Abramson and commit The New York Times to eradicating workplace discrimination.

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Jill Abramson was the first woman to lead The New York Times. She is one of the world’s most talented reporters and editors, and as executive editor, she kept the paper out of scandal while making major strides in gender equity and online engagement. This week, she was unceremoniously dumped from her post by the company’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.

As many have pointed out, we’re yet to find out the true reasons behind Abramson’s firing. One alarming report [1] suggests she was fired for making quiet inquiries about whether she was receiving lower compensation than her male predecessor and colleagues, while others suggest that it was because she was “pushy.” Management at The New York Times deny the charge that she was being paid less.

What’s very clear is that the way she was dumped was profoundly and unacceptably disrespectful. Abramson deserves a public apology for that treatment.

The last time Sulzberger fired a controversial top editor, he did so in a strikingly different fashion. [2]

Howell Raines, an executive who was described as ruling by fear, presided over a time when the paper had to retract entire stories by plagiarist Jayson Blair. Raines also ran the notorious reports by Judith Miller that recycled Bush administration lies about "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, stories that were highly influential in generating public support for the U.S. invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

There was open speculation about whether Raines was single-handedly destroying The New York Times, but when he was fired, Sulzberger was quoted praising him in the paper's own report about the transition.

According the Times’ own report, Abramson’s firing on May 14th came as a surprise, [3] when senior editors were called to an unexpected meeting before the news was sprung on a shocked staff. Sulzberger didn’t even try to conceal the enmity between himself and Abramson, instead delivering a statement that echoed earlier, gendered critiques:

“I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects …”, he reportedly said.

Was Abramson difficult? Maybe. Was she more difficult than Howell Raines, who ruled the newsroom by fear and nearly destroyed the paper’s reputation? Was she more difficult than her successor, Dean Baquet, who punched through a wall after a disagreement with her? [4] Maybe she was.

Women always are so difficult, you know. Not like men who manage their tempers by punching walls. Abramson, like many women, was held to the impossible standards of the mythical “perfect” woman boss: she didn't just have to do a good job, she also had to be loved by all.

The New York Times, and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., owe Jill Abramson an apology, and they owe the public an explanation. The Times needs to explain how exactly her performance could possibly justify this demeaning treatment.

This is important to all of us who care about the equal treatment of women. As a woman journalist, it’s particularly horrifying to see an icon thrown to the gutter in this way. Jill Abramson should know that we are outraged and hurt on her behalf, and the next generation of female reporters and readers should know that this kind of outrageous sexism will not continue to dominate the media establishment.

[1] - “Why Jill Abramson was fired,” by Ken Auletta, The New Yorker, May 14, 2014

[2] - "I Sort of Hope We Find Out That Jill Abramson Was Robbing the Cash Register: Trying to explain a singularly humiliating firing," by Rebecca Traister, The New Republic, May 14, 2014.

[3] - “Times Ousts Jill Abramson as Executive Editor, Elevating Dean Baquet,” by David Carr and Ravi Somaiya, May 14, 2014.

[4] - “Everything You Need to Know About Dean Baquet, the First Black Executive Editor of the New York Times,” by Joe Coscarelli, May 14, 2014.