Politico's clueless Times coverage: What its Jill Abramson reporting really reveals

While the website claims credit for Jill Abramson's departure, here's what Dylan Byers' story actually tells us

Published May 14, 2014 9:31PM (EDT)

Jill Abramson, Dylan Byers         (Reuters/Kena Betancur/CNN)
Jill Abramson, Dylan Byers (Reuters/Kena Betancur/CNN)

Here’s the most telling section of Politico’s story on New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson’s firing:

Her accomplishments aside, Abramson’s tenure was marred by disagreements with Times CEO Mark Thompson, who took an unprecedently hands-on approach to managing the paper’s editorial resources.

Abramson also suffered from perceptions among staff that she was condescending and combative.

Small point: "unprecedently" is not a real word. Larger point: With a mere three remarkable words — “Her accomplishments aside …” — Byers has dismissed as irrelevant Abramson’s two-and-half-year tenure as Times executive editor.

This is followed by a string of half-assed, unsubstantiated non sequiturs:

  • There is no evidence, in Byers’ linked story, that Thompson’s involvement in editorial matters "marred" anything. Did Abramson "chafe" at the meddling of a non-editorial exec in editorial matters? Perhaps! And she’d have every right! But did this ruin (which is what "mar" means) the paper? Let’s see some evidence that it suffered; Byers doesn’t provide any. To the contrary: Abramson, he writes, “oversaw a period of impressive journalism and robust digital growth at the Times.”
  • As to the second allegation — “Abramson also suffered from perceptions among staff that she was condescending and combative.” That’s a link to a story Byers wrote last year, which Politico hilariously suggested helped push Abramson out the door. The story certainly had its problems. But I’m more bothered by today’s weaselly construction. Byers doesn’t even say Abramson was “condescending and combative” — whatever the hell that means. There was, however, a “perception” that she was “condescending and combative” for which she “suffered”!

This is the kind of stuff reporters file when they have no idea what’s going on. I hope that tonight, when Charlie Rose asks Byers why Abramson got fired, he’s got better material.

By Elon Green

Elon Green is a contributing writer at Salon, covering media and politics.

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