Tags: New York Times

The New York Times’s Unlucky Number: 475,000


Also in today’s Jolt:

Disastrous Numbers for the New York Times: The Salary Numbers Leaked

Yeah, the New York Times is in for a world of trouble. Did they pay recently dismissed executive editor Jill Abramson less than her male predecessors? The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta obtains some salary numbers that say . . . yeah, pretty much:

On Thursday, though, Sulzberger said, in a memo to the staff, that this was “misinformation”:

It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. 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. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.

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 predecessor in that position, Phil Taubman. (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)

[Insert from Jim: Everyone in America just said, "I'm vastly underpaid."]

Murphy cautioned that one shouldn’t look at salary but, rather, at total compensation, which includes, she said, any bonuses, stock grants, and other long-term incentives. This distinction appears to be the basis of Sulzberger’s comment that Abramson was not earning “significantly less.” But it is hard to know how to parse this without more numbers from the Times.

So she started out getting 84 percent of what Keller made; that was raised to 89 percent and eventually 93 percent.

Hey, is 77 cents “significantly less” than a dollar?

Fred Savage, best remembered at the kid from The Wonder Years, did an office-based sitcom for two years called Working. I remember one commercial depicting some co-worker yelling at Savage’s character, “you just accidentally e-mailed the salary figures for every employee at this company to everyone who works here!” Savage looks deeply concerned, and then in the background we see two other suit-clad men suddenly break into a fistfight.

Ramesh sent us to this thought from John Hayward . . . 

After enjoying a frothy mug of schadenfreude over the pickle the New York Times finds itself in, we might reflect that this is really a story about cloistered liberals growing up, and learning how their ideology is a poor fit for the real world, where complex situations cannot easily be reduced to cartoons about patriarchy, sexism, and racism. Can you blame Abramson for wanting to be paid as much as her male predecessor? Was it utterly unreasonable for the top brass at the New York Times to offer valid reasons why he was paid more, or to say that they needed to control payroll costs in a time of financial crisis? Was it out of line for Abramson’s superiors to decide her abrasive manner was alienating the people beneath her, or that her plans for the newsroom were inconsistent with theirs?

Perhaps we see cloistered liberals growing up so rarely that we’re not quite sure how to react. But then he adds:

The fun part will be when the folks at the Times and other liberal writers currently stepping forward to defend them, forget how complicated these decisions are and giddily assault some private-sector operation outside of the sainted media-government axis for violating liberal dogma. It’ll probably happen before the last personal items have been cleared from Jill Abramson’s office.

No, that’s not the fun part. That’s the really infuriating part, because this is the big “teachable moment” and our well-founded cynicism is telling us that those cloistered liberals aren’t actually going to grow up, and they won’t learn anything from the teachable moment.

A wise veteran of presidential campaigns asked me last night, “What fourth-generation large company is run well? Hard to think of many . . .”

Tags: New York Times , War On Women

Delicious: New York Times Accused of Underpaying Top Woman


From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

Delicious: New York Times Accused of Underpaying Top Woman

A New York Times house editorial, April 10, 2014:

Wage injustice matters to all Americans, regardless of party, and those who stand in the way of fairness do so at their political peril.

The New York Times dismissed its executive editor, Jill Abramson, Wednesday, sending powerful shockwaves through the Acela Corridor media world and no noticeable ripple through the rest of the country. Now, in the predictable post-dismissal recriminations, we learn that the New York Times, valiant crusader against “wage injustice,” was paying its female top editor “considerably less” than previous male top editors. (What, was the Times paying 77 cents for every dollar it paid the men?)

Who knew the Old Gray Lady was fighting a war on women?

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 be believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, has had to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for many fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. (I was also told by another friend of hers that the pay gap with Keller has since been closed.) But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy.

Sulzberger’s frustration with Abramson was growing. She had already clashed with the company’s C.E.O., Mark Thompson, over native advertising and the perceived intrusion of the business side into the newsroom. Publicly, Thompson and Abramson denied that there was any tension between them, as Sulzberger today declared that there was no church-state—that is, business-editorial—conflict at the Times. A politician who made such implausible claims might merit a front-page story in the Times.

Naturally, to get the scoop about what’s really going on within the New York Times, you have to read The New Yorker magazine. The poor Times even gets scooped about what’s going on within its own offices.

For what it’s worth, after the New Yorker ran this item, the Times later issued a statement that Abramson’s pay was “directly comparable” to her predecessors. Of course, a small number is “directly comparable” to a big number; any two sums can be “directly compared.”

Ace reminds them that President Obama hasn’t been campaigning on “directly comparable pay.” John Ekdahl collected one painfully ironic Times headline after another.

In another spectacular example of the New York Times leadership refusing to behave in the manner it demands from others, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported,

[Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the Times] ordered top news executives and officials not to speak even to colleagues about grounds for rupture with Abramson.

Transparency is for the little people!

Other discoveries from last night:

Tags: New York Times , War On Women

Obama Message on the Times Poll: ‘They Re-Biased the Same Sample.’


It’s entirely possible that the New York Times poll out this morning is an outlier, that subsequent polls will show the traditional gender gap returning, and so on. Don’t break out the party hats when you see a poll result you like, and don’t order the hemlock when you see a poll result you don’t like.

Having said all that, the argument from the Obama campaign is that the entire poll is erroneous, and that its results indicate nothing.

Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, drew the short straw this morning and had to argue that the poll’s finding that 67 percent think Obama announced his personal support of gay marriage for “political reasons” and only 24 percent think he did it because “he thinks it’s right” cannot be trusted.

If you want to argue that the divide is a bit closer, fine, but… here’s Cutter:

Chuck Todd: “This is such a resounding number, it’s within any margin of error you want to create… That’s a lot of people saying he did this for politics.”

Cutter: “We can’t put the methodology of that poll aside, because the methodology was significantly biased–”

Todd:  “You think this is so flawed, that this number–”

Cutter: “This is a biased sample.”

Todd: “This three to one margin is somehow going to shrink down the other way?”

Cutter: “I don’t want to go through methodology on your show. I think your readers – I think your viewers would be pretty bored by it.”

Todd: “They’re junkies. They like this stuff.”

Cutter: “They sampled a biased sample, so they re-biased the same sample. I think that the results of that poll are probably pretty flawed.”

The argument is that because the Times went back to 562 of the 852 registered voter respondents they reached in April, it somehow doesn’t accurately represent the views of the electorate the way the preceding poll did. It’s possible that the 562 lean further to the right than the preceding sample. But because the Times provides the partisan breakdown of both samples, we know that the sample is essentially the same in partisan composition. It shifted from 26 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat, and 33 percent Independent (D+8) to 27 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat, and 34 percent Independent (D+8).

The sample of 562 is a bit smaller than one would like to see in a national poll, but it’s not wildly smaller than other national polls, and as the Times writes, “In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, results based on such samples of all adults will differ by no more than 4 percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking to interview all American adults.”

The Times doesn’t break down its newer, smaller sample by race or age, so some might argue that the sample has too few African-Americans or young people. But for what it’s worth, the Times says they’ve taken that into account already: “Overall results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to geographic area, sex, race, Hispanic origin, age, education, marital status and number of adults in the household. Respondents in the landline sample were also weighted to take into account the number of telephone lines at their residence. This poll also included weights based on respondents’ party identification and their presidential vote preference from the earlier survey.”

In other words, like all polls, this one could be out of whack… but there’s nothing obviously wrong with the sample.

Tags: New York Times , Obama , Polling

Times’ Public Editor Doesn’t Plan to Write About ‘Magic Underpants’ Comment


Art Brisbane, the public editor and reader ombudsman of the New York Times, responded to my inquiry about columnist Charles M. Blow’s declaration that Mitt Romney should “stick that in your magic underwear,” a reference to a Mormon religious practice.

Mr.Geraghty: I agree this type of tweet isn’t a good idea. I have generally taken the view that ad hominem attacks are problematic journalistically (see link below to a column I write about a Joe Nocera piece). And I personally disagree with criticizing anyone based on religious belief. Because the writer in this case is an Op-Ed writer, whose opinions are his own, I do not plan to intervene to disagree with the opinion itself. But I think tweets of this kind are a mistake.

Brisbane wrote again, a few moments later, to note Blow apologized this morning. “Btw, the comment I made about Mormonism during Wed.’s debate was inappropriate, and I regret it. I’m willing to admit that with no caveats.”

Of course, this still leaves Blow’s comment from yesterday that it was “Time to scratch some of this right wing lice out of my timeline.”

Referring to those of different views as parasitic insects that must be eliminated. No uncomfortable historical parallels there, right?

But not worth intervening to disagree with the opinion itself, I suppose.

If only Mr. Blow had listened to advice like this:

I know that he likes to joke and tease. I have even joked with him. So I can believe that, in his mind, he may have thought that these were just harmless jokes in which the violence was fictional and funny.

But in the real world — where bullying and violence against gays and lesbians, or even those assumed to be so, is all too real — “jokes” like his hold no humor. There are too many bruised ribs and black eyes and buried bodies for the targets of this violence to just lighten up and laugh.

We all have to understand that effects can operate independent of intent, that subconscious biases can move counter to conscious egalitarianism, and that malice need not be present within the individual to fuel the maliciousness of the society at large.

The author of those words is . . . Charles Blow, an entire 13 days ago.

Tags: Mormonism , New York Times

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