April 29 2013

Chill on Jill!

Charlotte Hays

One of the most amusing conversations lately was a group of women debating a weighty matter now confronting the republic: How should women rally to defend the New York Times' top editor Jill Abramson, the subject of a supposedly “sexist” piece over at Politico. The piece portrayed Ms. Abramson as the boss from hell.

Chill, ladies. Jill doesn’t need you. The slayer of Howell Raines (or at least a key actor in ending Raines’ brief and tumultuous tenure in the job Abramson now holds) can take care of herself.  What I find so amazing is that at a time when women are doing so well that we should worry about the status of men, a harsh story about the most powerful woman in American journalism is somehow construed as sexist. Give me a break.

The Politico piece was headlined “Turbulence at The Times,” and it has occasioned a lot of turbulence among women.  It was written by Dylan Byers and it portrays an editor who is “already on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom.” Nasty bosses are a dime a dozen. It’s more fun to read about them than to work for them. I have no way of knowing if this story presents an accurate picture of Abramson, but there is nothing sexist about reporting on Abramson’s managerial style.

Here is something that particularly upset would be Abramson defenders:

One Monday morning in April, Jill Abramson called Dean Baquet into her office to complain. The executive editor of The New York Times was upset about the paper’s recent news coverage — she felt it wasn’t “buzzy” enough, a source there said — and placed blame on Baquet, her managing editor. A debate ensued, which gave way to an argument.

Minutes later, Baquet burst out of Abramson’s office, slammed his hand against a wall and stormed out of the newsroom. He would be gone for the rest of the day, absent from the editors’ daily 4 p.m. meeting, at which he is a fixture.

It was said by women I heard discussing the story on TV that this anecdote plays into stereotypes about women being bitchy, while the masculine Baquet escapes scot free. I disagree. I think a top editor who rams his fist against a wall and storms out of the newsroom because his boss has criticized him doesn’t come off at all well.

Abramson is a woman of the left and coauthor of a hatchet job book on Justice Clarence Thomas. It was a terribly unfair book. The Times leans left in coverage and columns. But here’s something I can’t argue with: under Abramson the newspaper has won more than its share of Pulitzer Prizes. Also, some of the Abramson as monster stories just don’t sound that hideous:

In recent months, Abramson has become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the Times newsroom. More than a dozen current and former members of the editorial staff, all of whom spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity, described her as stubborn and condescending, saying they found her difficult to work with. If Baquet had burst out of the office in a huff, many said, it was likely because Abramson had been unreasonable.

“Every editor has a story about how she’s blown up in a meeting,” one reporter said. “Jill can be impossible,” said another staffer.

Oh, wow! An editor who blows up in a meeting. Stop the presses! Take a Midol!

But I’m not interested in whether Abramson is a mean or a nice editor. I’m interested in the fatuous notion among feminists, many of whom are shrinking violets compared to Abramson, that there is something sexist in this reporting (read it for yourself) or that Abramson requires their defense. It speaks to a mindset that says women are discriminated against and ignores the policy of many corporations to go out of their way to hire women and make them comfortable.

But there may be an explanation other than sexism for the rallying 'round Jill.

Could it be that what the Abramson defenders are really doing is sucking up to power--just a thought!

 

 

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