Do you know who liked Jill Abramson? Lots of women at the New York Times

The "brusque" former executive editor made it her business to help women in journalism. They will miss her

Katie McDonough
May 16, 2014 11:28PM (UTC)

In all of the talk about what an awful terrible no good boss Jill Abramson was during her tenure as executive editor at the New York Times, the fact that plenty of people -- particularly women writers and editors at the Times -- happened to really like her seems to have gotten lost. So, too, have all of her accomplishments as the head of the newsroom.

Amanda Hess corrects the record over at Slate:


When Abramson was unexpectedly fired from the Times on Wednesday—17 years after joining the paper, and just two-and-a-half years after being tapped to run it—media reporters noted that she had made history as the first female executive editor in the paper’s 160-year history. But shooting off that brief line makes it seem as if her contribution to women was as simple as ticking off a box on the Times’ diversity checklist. According to a half-dozen women who worked with her, though, Abramson’s brief stint as the female leader of a male-dominated institution proved to be a transformative experience. By the time she left, media critics would report that staffers deemed her “polarizing,” “bitchy,” and “not approachable.” But to many women at the New York Times, Jill Abramson was everything. [...]

The mark Abramson made on her female employees wasn’t just a matter of optics. Abramson was committed to increasing women’s representation at the paper, and she got results. In 2013 alone, Abramson tapped political editor Carolyn Ryan to replace David Leonhardt as Washington bureau chief and replaced national editor Sam Sifton with weekend editor Alison Mitchell. She also handed over the reins at the Sunday Book Review from Sam Tanenhaus to Pamela Paul, who has since made enormous strides in representing women, both female authors and critics, in the review. Abramson created a race and ethnicity beat at the paper, tapping national correspondent Tanzina Vega to cover it, and poached star local D.C. reporter Nikita Stewart from the Washington Post to report on New York’s City Hall. “It’s a point of pride,” Abramson told Times public editor Margaret Sullivan about successfully achieving gender equity among the paper’s highest-ranking editors.

But was she being brusque while addressing gender disparities and elevating female staffers at one of the most influential papers in the world? Can Dylan Byers weigh in on this please?

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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