NYT Publisher Sulzberger Praises Ousted Editor as Press Defender

Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times Co., praised Jill Abramson yesterday as a fighter for freedom of the press, a week after dismissing her as the newspaper’s top editor.

“Jill Abramson is a powerful and outspoken advocate for freedom,” Sulzberger said, lauding her for challenging the Obama administration’s restrictions on the press. “I will always admire Jill’s commitment to this issue and her many contributions to the Times.”

Sulzberger, also publisher of the New York Times, spoke at a First Amendment Awards dinner last night hosted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He was being honored at the New York event and spoke just hours after Abramson delivered a commencement address at Wake Forest University. It was the first public appearance for each since the firing.

Abramson, the first woman to run the Times as executive editor in its 162-year history, was abruptly ousted on May 14 following a fraught relationship with Sulzberger.

Since then, Sulzberger, 62, has found himself playing defense in a public relations battle surrounding the dismissal. After a debate was set off about whether gender played a role in Abramson’s ouster, Sulzberger issued a denial over the weekend, saying he replaced her after deciding “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.”

Dean Baquet, the new executive editor of the Times, said he wished the dismissal of his predecessor hadn’t created such a firestorm.

‘Calmed Down’

“It’s hard to have any regrets when you get such a great job,” Baquet said in response to questions as he attended the dinner. “Of course, I wish it had played out differently. And I wish it had played out a little differently for Jill. But I think in the end it’s calmed down.”

Baquet praised Abramson’s speech.

“I think she was great this morning,” said Baquet, who is the first African-American executive editor at the newspaper.

Abramson, 60, told graduates at the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, campus yesterday that she knows “the sting of losing.” When that happens, “show what you are made of,” she said.

Don Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings Co., which sold the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos last year, introduced Sulzberger at the awards dinner. He credited Sulzberger with adapting the newspaper to the Internet and upholding its standards.

“This week is a storm,” Graham said. “But as someone who’s known Arthur since he was a young reporter in the Washington bureau at the Times, I can tell you it’s not his first. It’s been a long week for the publisher and the paper, but the verdict is in on Arthur’s long career.”

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