New York Times Co. (NYT:US) Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson said there’s been no interruption in the newsroom since Jill Abramson was suddenly replaced as executive editor last week.
Abramson, the first woman to run the Times as executive editor in its 162-year history, was abruptly ousted on May 14 following a fraught relationship with Publisher Arthur Sulzberger. She was replaced by Dean Baquet, who had been managing editor.
“From the point of view of the business of the New York Times Company, we had an immediate handover and Dean took up office of executive editor last Wednesday,” Thompson said today at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston. “The newsroom is continuing to absolutely deliver.”
After a debate was set off about whether gender played a role in Abramson’s ouster, Sulzberger issued a denial over the weekend, saying he replaced her after deciding “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.”
“Jill, I have to say, was a great personal and professional supporter of mine,” Thompson said. “I had a great working relationship with her, and Jill began a process of thinking hard of getting the rest of the newsroom to think hard about the future, and I think Dean will be able to pick up where she’s left off.”
Sulzberger, speaking at a First Amendment Awards dinner last night hosted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, praised Abramson, calling her a fighter for freedom of the press. He was being honored at the New York event and spoke just hours after Abramson delivered a commencement address at Wake Forest University. It was the first public appearance for each since the firing.
“Jill Abramson is a powerful and outspoken advocate for freedom,” Sulzberger said, lauding her for challenging the Obama administration’s restrictions on the press. “I will always admire Jill’s commitment to this issue and her many contributions to the Times.”
The 62-year-old publisher found himself playing defense in a public relations battle surrounding the dismissal.
After issuing two statements on the matter, he granted an interview with Sarah Ellison of Vanity Fair over the weekend. In the article, which ran today, Sulzberger continued to defend his management decisions.
“The question is, am I doing a bad job of picking leaders for the New York Times? I don’t think so,” Sulzberger said, according to the article. “Everyone who pretends they have a 100 percent success rate isn’t trying hard enough.”
Baquet, who was also at the Freedom of the Press dinner, said he wished the dismissal of his predecessor hadn’t created such a firestorm.
“It’s hard to have any regrets when you get such a great job,” Baquet said in response to questions. “Of course, I wish it had played out differently. And I wish it had played out a little differently for Jill. But I think in the end it’s calmed down.”
Baquet also praised Abramson’s commencement speech.
“She was great,” said Baquet, who is the first African-American executive editor at the newspaper.
Abramson, 60, told graduates at the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, campus yesterday that she knows “the sting of losing.” When that happens, “show what you are made of,” she said.
Don Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings Co., which sold the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos last year, introduced Sulzberger at the awards dinner. He credited Sulzberger with adapting the newspaper to the Internet and upholding its standards.
“This week is a storm,” Graham said. “But as someone who’s known Arthur since he was a young reporter in the Washington bureau at the Times, I can tell you it’s not his first. It’s been a long week for the publisher and the paper, but the verdict is in on Arthur’s long career.”
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