News World Shock NYT axing leaves questions unanswered
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Shock NYT axing leaves questions unanswered

The New York Times is in Donald Trump's sights. Photo: Getty
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The New York Times has abruptly replaced its first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, and named managing editor Dean Baquet as the first African American in the top editorial post.

In an unexpected reshuffle at the paper, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr fired Abramson, 60, who has been in the top job since September 2011.

Her successor,Baquet, will be the first ever African American to hold the job.

The sudden departure left many questions unanswered both inside and outside one of the nation’s most prestigious news organisations.

The New Yorker cited unnamed sources as saying that Abramson quit after a confrontation over her pay, said to be lower than Bill Keller, her predecessor as executive editor and previously managing editor.

“She confronted top brass,” the magazine cited a close associate as saying, adding that this may have fed into the management’s narrative that Abramson was “pushy”.

The report was backed by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who said he had confirmed Abramson “did indeed challenge corporate brass over what she saw as unequal pay” and that Times staff wondered if gender had a role in her ouster.

But the Times disputed that account.

“From the start, Jill’s compensation as executive editor was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s compensation as executive editor,” spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told AFP.

“Today’s change in leadership was a result of Arthur Sulzberger’s concern about aspects of newsroom management.”

Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy said the departure appeared irregular.

“This was definitely not a normal change,” Kennedy told AFP.

“Abramson did not address the staff and was all but hustled out of the building. The explanation that Arthur Sulzberger offered about newsroom management seems completely inadequate.”

Dan Gillmor, a journalism faculty member at the Arizona State University, also expressed scepticism.

“If top exec in any other important industry left under mysterious circumstances, @NYTimes would launch a team of reporters to find out why,” he tweeted.

Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor who is now a consultant, said of the abrupt change: “We don’t know if she jumped or was pushed but the meagre information available suggests the latter.”

Mutter added that the ouster “suggests a dissatisfaction with either her style and/or performance as a manager – and probably does not reflect a reaction to the ongoing secular challenges facing newspapers in general and the Times in particular”.

Ms Abramson, the first woman to hold the position at the venerable publication, has already spoken out about her shock exit:

“I’ve loved my run at the Times,” she said in a statement published by the Times. “I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism.”

Ms Abramson’s three-year tenure was a contentious one: a 2013 report by Politico.com said fellow staff members described her as “stubborn and condescending” and “difficult to work with”.

Mr Sulzberger told CNN that the leadership reshuffle was an attempt to “improve some aspects of management of the newsroom.”

Last year, The New York Times boasted the largest daily and Sunday circulation of any seven-day newspaper in the US, with a weekday circulation of 1,926,800 print and online versions.

According to the company’s 2013 annual statement, the firm had an annual turnover of $US1.57 billion ($A1.70 billion).

Ms Abramson’s three-year tenure was a contentious one: a 2013 report by Politico.com said fellow staff members described her as “stubborn and condescending” and “difficult to work with”.

Within mere minutes of the announcement, Ms Abramson’s name had been removed from the paper’s online masthead.

Mr Baquet, 57, is a Pulitzer Prize winner and has been managing editor at the paper since September 2011.

According to Mr Sulzberger, “There is no journalist in our newsroom or elsewhere better qualified to take on the responsibilities of executive editor at this time than Dean Baquet. He is an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world

In a statement regarding his new position, Mr Baquet said: “It is an honor 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.”

With Agencies