I’ve been reading the Jill Abramson story. That’s the New York Times editor who was abruptly cashiered today, or so the story is shaping up. I read the first news-alert piece today from the NYT, which called the transition “unexpected.” My first thought was, someone has cancer. But now it appears, via Ken Auletta at the link above, that it was a more prosaic reason:
As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories.
Pushy. Well, that’s what leaning in will get you.
Abramson is a big supporter of the Knight-Wallace Fellows, and visited Ann Arbor when I was there. She’s smart and personable and has a truly distinctive voice, this sort of nasal New York drawl, if that makes sense. (You’ve heard of people who have “a face for radio?” Well, she has a voice for print, but she made a joke about it, so she gets points.) She answered every question directly and seemed truly comfortable in her skin. The Times had recently taken some flack about publishing photos from the horrible ambush of American contractors in Iraq in 2004, where the bodies were dragged and burned and hoisted up for public view like charred barbecue. She explained why they made the call they did. Beyond that, I don’t what to say other than she was right to point out the pay discrepancy.
You could make the argument that the NYT had been overpaying for a while, and it was just bad timing that Abramson took the editor’s job when the publisher decided the salary had to return to earth. But she was also underpaid when she was managing editor, and apparently there’s a deputy m.e. who earned more than she did. I have a feeling this is a more-will-be-revealed thing.
So. Many years ago, I made a dismissive remark about cats in a column. I’m not a cat hater, but I’ve never had one of my own, and I guess I fell for the cruel cat stereotype that they’re aloof and would happily watch their masters writhe on the ground in pain, asking only that the hoomin please leave some food out before heading to the hospital. I got a note for a woman who claimed her cat had awakened her — by jumping on her chest and meowing loudly — during a break-in at her house. I forget the cat’s name, but I did a hooray-for-Mr.-Jinxy column and that was that.
Evidently heroism runs in the gene pool. I had no idea.
Not much more to add today, but there’s this: The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad has three songs on Bandcamp, which you may listen to and download, if you’re so inclined. They were produced by my friend Jim Diamond, who did them gratis because he’s a mensch. He said they added some percussion in post, and Kate played the cowbell. “Move closer to the mic, Kate, I need more cowbell,” he said, noting that’s the first time he’s ever spoken those words in his career. It got a big laugh. I expect the DVAS won’t be to everybody’s liking, but I hope Borden digs ’em, because he knows his girl groups.
As for the lyrics, I have only this to say: Johnny Cash didn’t really shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
Happy Thursday, all.