Another bombshell report about the salary paid to Jill Abramson, the ousted former New York Times editor, alleges that she was consistently paid less than her male predecessors throughout almost her entire career at the paper.
The New Yorker's Ken Auletta, who sparked an initial firestorm when he first reported that Abramson had complained about a pay gap between herself and Bill Keller, whom she had succeeded as executive editor, posted another article on the magazine's website late on Thursday night.
In it, he addressed the efforts by Times management—including by the man who fired Abramson, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.—to rebut the highly damaging notion that Abramson was the subject of sexist wage practices. Sulzberger sent Times staffers a memo stating that this notion was "misinformation," that Abramson's pay was "comparable to that of earlier executive editors," and that, "In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010."
"Total compensation" is often a mixture of a base salary along with money from stocks and bonuses, meaning that, unless the Times releases those figures, it is hard to know exactly what mix of each contributed to Abramson's full pay package. Whatever the case, Auletta reported that the paychecks Abramson was taking home were significantly lighter than those of her male counterparts — at every step of her career at the Times, and that she had hired a lawyer to get to the bottom of things:
Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman. (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)
Auletta, like all the other reporters sniffing around the Abramson story, was quick to caution that the salary issue cannot be viewed as the singular one that led to her firing. Clearly, a whole host of problems—from Abramson's attempts to hire new senior editors without consulting her deputy (and now successor) Dean Baquet, to her continually bad relationships with both Sulzberger and Times CEO Mark Thompson, to her often-unpopular management style—contributed to the break. But the question of her salary appears to be one that will continue to cause something of a scandal.