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NYT publisher gives media more details in executive editor's firing

By Brian Stelter, CNN
updated 11:46 AM EDT, Sun May 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New York Times publisher dismissed executive editor Jill Abramson on Wednesday
  • News reports afterward questioned whether Abramson was a victim of sexism
  • On Saturday, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gave more details in a statement to the media
  • Among terms used: "... arbitrary decision-making," "public mistreatment of colleagues"

(CNN) -- On Wednesday, when New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told his staff that he had dismissed executive editor Jill Abramson, he cited an "issue with management in the newsroom" and said he wouldn't get into the details.

On Saturday, he concluded that he had to -- and he sent a detailed 475-word statement to the press that listed Abramson's shortcomings.

The unsparing statement came after days of news reports that questioned whether Abramson was the victim of sexism. Allies of Abramson told The New Yorker that she had spoken up after finding out that she'd been paid less than her predecessor in the job, Bill Keller.

On Saturday, Sulzberger acknowledged that her firing had been "cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace."

"Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged," Sulzberger said.

He asserted that her total "pay package" -- not just her salary, but stock and other compensation -- "was comparable with Bill Keller's; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10 percent higher than his."

Then he listed what he said were the management issues that led him to abruptly replace her with Dean Baquet, who had been managing editor for news. The statement came as a surprise because until Saturday, it appeared that both sides had agreed not to speak publicly about her departure.

"Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out," Sulzberger said in the statement. "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 he "warned her" that she "risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom" if she did not improve. "She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them."

The Times reported earlier this week that Abramson had retained a consultant to "help her with her management style."

Sulzberger said "it became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back."

He did not specify when this became clear. He reportedly met with Baquet and listened to concerns about Abramson earlier this month.

Through a spokeswoman, Sulzberger declined a followup interview request on Saturday.

Abramson has not responded to interview requests since Wednesday. Her daughter -- who has used Instagram to communicate about the shakeup at The Times -- wrote on Friday, "The story isn't over, not even close."

Opinion: Was Jill Abramson fired because she is a woman?

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