Thursday, May 15, 2014

The New York Times and Equal Pay

On April 9 — a little over a month ago — the New York Times editorial board came down strongly in favor of equal pay for women and woe betide the Republicans for standing in the way.

Women are the primary or co-breadwinner in 6 out of 10 American families. That makes the economic imperative of addressing the wage gap between women and men important, as is every step President Obama can take in that direction.


Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would apply the changes ordered by Mr. Obama for federal contractors to the entire American work force as well as make some other important updates to the federal Equal Pay Act. The outcome was entirely predictable. Republicans also stopped the bill in 2010 and 2012. But wage injustice matters to all Americans, regardless of party, and those who stand in the way of fairness do so at their political peril.

Well said.  So it must come as a bit of an embarrassment when news broke this afternoon that Jill Abramson, the executive editor at the Times, had been replaced with stunning swiftness because she raised a stink over her own unequal pay.   Ken Auletta at The New Yorker has the details.

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 believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. 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. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”

This does not look good for the Gray Lady, and that’s putting it mildly.  Maybe they ought to pay attention to their own words that they so righteously and correctly directed at the Republicans.  As Josh Marshall notes, this is thermonuclear.

One bark on “The New York Times and Equal Pay

  1. I think this is a case where the facts are lagging behind the outrage. The morning Times has a brief response with – to me – a logical explanation for the apparent disparity in both pension and compensation…. of which there wasn’t that much. Let’s all take a moment to breathe. I’m a woman and I’m for parity in all jobs, but I’ll bet Punch had his reasons even as he knew there would be a firestorm.

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