The Spectacle Blog

If a New York Times Executive Editor Falls in the Forest, Does It Make a Sound?

By on 5.15.14 | 12:54PM

The news is unbelievable, outlandish, and absurd! Jill Abramson has been ousted from the New York Times. This, of course, is huge news. You know that it's huge news because news outlets tell you so. NPR, Forbes, The Washington Post, and Politico (no less than four times!) have all spilled copious amounts of ink covering Abramson's departure. It has long been rumored that Abramson was a difficult boss to work for. Perhaps the Ban Bossy campaign has backfired. 

The most breathless coverage came from Politico's John Harris and Hadas Gold, who proclaimed that this departure is the departure to beat all departures. The Capo di tutti capi of departures:

But three factors guarantee that this move will ricochet longer and more intensely than just another job shuffle atop a newspaper struggling to reinvent itself in a new era of media...First is the uncommonly bloody manner of execution...Second is gender. Abramson’s ascension less than three years ago as the first women to lead the Times was widely hailed as a feminist triumph...Third is the larger question about the leadership and long-term vitality of the Times, an institution that remains in a tumultuous age of media arguably the most important and prestigious news organization in the world...

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, with whom Abramson co-wrote the book “Strange Justice,” said in an email that Abramson is “the best journalist I know” who has “strong opinions she is never afraid to express.”

“Not everyone is going to like that,” Mayer said.

Abramson, most likely through journalists she's leaking to, is already painting a picture of a newsroom that couldn't handle her intense management style. The New Yorker is reporting that she left when she discovered she was being paid less than her predecessor. The Times must be ashamed of their women-hating. Oh wait: Hypocrisy is as natural as breathing for journalistic outlets. 

The media will never pass up an opportunity to throw around the he-said-she-said nonsense that dominates situations like these. Thus, the startling amount of coverage over one job lost in a country where the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent (and much higher when taking into account those who have left the workforce).  

But what does it matter? I mean really, does this matter at all? The New York Times isn't going to suddenly shift into a conservative-leaning publication. Nor will they abandon their (successful) transition to a more digitally progressive platform. The Gray Lady will beat on as she always has with impeccable foreign coverage and the predominant liberal ideologies of the day. Without a doubt, the construction worker in New Jersey, the police officer in Kentucky, and the farmer in Iowa don't care one whit about Jill Abramson and they shouldn't. The degree of self-regard that the media has is absolutely staggering. Do they really believe that the majority of the country cares about minuscule shake-ups like these? At some level, publications must know that most people—heck, most of their readership—don't give a damn. Yet these stories abound. 

It seems to me that the entire journalist profession has gone Gonzo. But unlike Hunter S. Thompson giving us anecdotes about the debauchery at the Kentucky Derby through his eyes, we get all eyes on Jill Abramson.

It's a media world and we're all just living in it. Now catch that breaking headline in tomorrow's issue of Politico. 

UPDATE: The New Republic sneaks in at the finish line for most breathless coverage, shaming Politico by essentially equating this firing with the defeat of feminism:

As it is, the departure of Jill Abramson is a bigger and far grimmer story about a uniquely powerful woman, whose rise and whose firing will now become another depressingly representative chapter in the story of women's terribly slow march toward social, professional and economic parity. 

Oh, New Republic. Never change.

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