NYT Publisher Sulzberger Says Abramson Firing Driven By Conduct

New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. denied gender bias played any part in his decision to fire top editor Jill Abramson, saying she publicly mistreated colleagues and was a poor communicator.

“During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues,” Sulzberger said in a statement released yesterday.

“I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom.”

Abramson discovered she was being paid less than her predecessor, Bill Keller, and was fired after confronting Sulzberger about the matter, according to Ken Auletta, media reporter for the New Yorker. Her complaint over what she perceived as pay disparity stood as one of the salient events that led to her dismissal, Auletta reported.

Sulzberger has denied that Abramson’s compensation wasn’t comparable with Keller’s, and in his statement said “a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged” around the firing.

Abramson, 60, was forced out May 14 after a three-year tenure marked by some criticism of her management style and clashes with senior executives over initiatives such as native advertising -- online ads designed to resemble news articles.

Like most newspapers, the company has been forced to retrench and regroup, refocusing on the New York Times brand and selling off such ancillary businesses as About.com and the Boston Globe. Still, the paper had 13 straight quarters of ad declines before achieving a small increase in the most recent period. That will be a short-lived gain as the company expects ad sales to fall this quarter.

Abramson, the newspaper’s first woman executive editor, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment.

Her successor, Dean Baquet, 57, is the first African-American to hold the Times’s top editorial position.

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