Jill Abramson was suddenly and surprisingly fired as the editor of the New York Times on Wednesday.
Abramson, who was the first woman to edit the Times, is being replaced by her deputy, Dean Baquet, who has become the first-ever African American to lead the paper of record. She had been serving as executive editor since September 2011.
The Times mandates that all senior editors resign their posts at 65; Abramson is 60, meaning that she left five years early.
In a statement, Abramson said, "I’ve loved my run at The Times. I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism."
Almost immediately after the announcement, the Times erased Abramson from its masthead.
At a hastily called meeting of the paper's staff, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., made it clear that Abramson's departure was not voluntary, though he gave few details about why exactly she was fired.
"We had an issue with management in the newsroom," he said, according to a staffer who was present. "And that's all I'm going to say." He added that he had made the change "because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom."
He also stressed that the change was "not about any sort of disagreement between the newsroom and the business side," causing some observers to think that that was, in fact, what led to Abramson's firing.
There have been reports of substantial tension between Abramson and Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times Company, about the role of the paper's business side in the newsroom. But there have also been widely-publicized reports about complaints over Abramson's general management style.
One Times staffer, Laurie Goodstein, dropped this cryptic hint on Twitter:
Sorry tweeps, I am not in NYT newsroom today, but can say that this leadership shift was expected eventually - just not now.
— Laurie Goodstein (@lauriegnyt) May 14, 2014
And Bloomberg News reported that Abramson and Sulzberger had not been getting along for months.
As the day wore on, more and more rumors began flying about behind-the-scenes battles between Abramson, Thompson and Sulzberger over hiring, pay and strategic direction.
Whatever Times journalists may have been expecting, they were shocked by the announcement.
In a note to staffers, Sulzberger shed no light on the specifics, but repeated the theme of the Times' transition to a digital age:
As those of you who know Dean will understand, he is uniquely suited to this role. He is a proven manager, both here at The Times and elsewhere. He is also a consummate journalist whose reputation as a fierce advocate for his reporters and editors is well-deserved. And importantly, he is an enthusiastic supporter of our push toward further creativity in how we approach the digital expression of our journalism.
Abramson's departure brings what had been a stellar career at the Times to a brutal end. She rose through the ranks of the Times, first as editor of the Washington bureau and then as managing editor under her predecessor, Bill Keller. She was previously a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal.
Her leadership of the Times was marked by a series of painful staff cuts. Many of her high-profile appointments—such as the decision to make David Leonhardt the Washington bureau chief and Sam Sifton the national editor—fizzled out. But the Times also won eight Pulitzer Prizes during her tenure, and she was seen as a pioneer and role model for the women at the paper.
Abramson has been open about her devotion to the Times. In April, she revealed that she has the "T" from the paper's logo tattooed on her back.
Baquet has served as, among other things, Washington bureau chief and managing editor for the Times. He was also the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Throughout his career, he has been a widely popular manager.
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