Did someone call Jill Abramson “pushy?”

FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2014

Gaze on the soul of our world: Did somebody call Jill Abramson “pushy?”

We have no idea, though you’d certainly think so from reading Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.

Here’s the way Williams started her piece, exciting headlines included:
WILLIAMS (5/15/14): Don’t call Jill Abramson “pushy”
A single adjective shows how workplace sexism is alive and well

When the New York Times abruptly announced Wednesday afternoon that editor Jill Abramson was out – and offered the remarkably tight-lipped explanation that it was due to “an issue with management in the newsroom” – the mediasphere couldn’t scramble fast enough to get to the root of the tumult. And by Wednesday evening, the most buzzed about piece of reporting on the matter was Ken Auletta’s New Yorker take, and in particular, a “close associate’s” assertion that when Abramson learned she had been paid less than her predecessor Bill Keller, “She confronted the top brass” in a move that furthered management’s narrative that she was “pushy.”
Does that mean that somebody called Abramson “pushy?”

According to that second headline, that single adjective says it all. That single world is very important. But did anyone actually use it?

Did someone call Jill Abramson “pushy?” To see what slick journalism looks like, let’s consider Auletta’s fuller text:
AULETTA (5/14/14): 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 believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity...
There was more to the discussion of pay. But did somebody call Jill Abramson “pushy?” Let’s try to figure it out!

Auletta’s text is remarkably hard to decipher. For current purposes, we’ll assume it includes no lies.

Based on that assumption, it’s clear that Auletta spoke to a close associate of Abramson. Plainly, the close associate spoke these words: “She confronted the top brass.”

From that point on, it’s hard to tell what Auletta is saying. He seems to be speculating when he writes this: “and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy.’ ”

Auletta seems to be speculating there. Or is he actually paraphrasing what the close associate said? It’s hard to be sure. This makes it hard to tell if someone in management has actually called Abramson “pushy.”

(And of course, if someone actually said that, we aren’t told who that person is.)

Here’s a second possibility:

Is the magic word in question just Auletta’s characterization of “management’s [overall] narrative?” Is that a form of scare quotes around the word “pushy,” signaling us that this is Auletta’s take on what is being said?

It’s hard to know what’s going on in the passage in question. Let’s put that a different way: this is terrible journalism.

Auletta is using a magic word—a word which was sure to create excitement and set off disputes in this particular context.

But how odd! When Auletta used that magic word, he did so in an extremely slippery way. His writing makes it very hard to know what is being said.

The magic word “pushy” appears inside quotes—but we have no idea if anyone said it. If that passage was composed in good faith, that means that Ken Auletta is a terrible writer.

But Auletta isn’t a terrible writer. You can deduce the rest.

This is the way our gossip journalism works as our former nation heads toward the fall. Auletta throws out the shiny bait. All others gulp it down whole.

In this particular instance, Williams opened wide and swallowed the offering. Salon’s excitable headline writers then swung into action.

Bingo! Instant excitement! Get Lemon ready to roll!

Ken Auletta played a game, perhaps as a favor to a pal. At Salon, the children leaped.

Gaze on the soul on our world.

A primer in Salonist headline technique: In a more recent post at Salon, Katie McDonough mcdonoughsplained the Abramson firing.

She didn’t use the word “pushy” at all. But so what? Her piece ran beneath these headlines:
Jill Abramson was right to get a lawyer: “Pushy” women get paid
NYT editor's bringing a lawyer into a pay dispute may have ended her career. But she made the exact right choice
“Pushy” is a magic word. Aside from the slippery Auletta, has anyone actually used it?

31 comments:

  1. OMB (Cruisng Past the Pay Gap with OTB)

    Yeah, we know. We were supposed to get something about the
    Tuscaloosa Gaps this afternoon. But a few days back, the New
    York Times fired its first ladyeditor and replaced her with its first
    personofcoloreditor.

    BOB didn't want to muse about this, but now that mainstream Salon has weighed in with the "P" bomb, BOB has no choice.

    Pushy is the magic word. Pay Gap isn't. It's two words and it doesn't reinforce the meme.

    KZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course it doesn't. After lecturing us for a long, long time about how the pay gap, if it exists at all, isn't really that bad, Bob's got no choice but to disappear a blatant case of it, even against the hated New York Times and pretend it never happened.

      Meanwhile, as his sheep lows on some more sweet hay, the rest of the thinking world can wonder why this so-called "liberal" bastion wouldn't even come close to paying its first female executive editor like they paid their male executive editors.

      Delete
    2. Are you going to be an idiot your whole life?

      Delete
    3. People who respond to a comment after 24 hours usually offer a link with their spam.

      Delete

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      Delete
  2. Will Mr. Baquet make as much as Abramson did? As much as Keller? If not, will it be because he's black?

    Pay equity makes a great deal of sense at lower levels. It makes no sense to pay men and women burger flippers differently, given similar qualifications. But the higher you go up the corporate ladder, strict adherance to paying anybody with the same title becomes less and less justified.

    Every professional athlete negotiates the best deal his abilities will merit. Nobody squawks about that.

    There is only one executive editor of the NYT. Each one is different and each brings a singular lifetime of experience and background to the job. To suggest everyone who holds that position should be paid identically is insane. Only one person has the job at a time. Each one is unique. Ms. Abramson deserves the best deal she can negotiate (or push for). But so does her employer. Would there be squawking for equality if she were paid more than Mr. Keller? No, there would be a ticker tape parade celebrating progress for women at large, as the ladies at Walmart keep signing up for food stamps.

    Let's not waste time feeling sorry for elites. Let them eat their own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice try, Jeeves. If only Bob's subject were about the gap between the pay Abramson received compared to her male counterparts.

      And hint -- She didn't play second baseman for the Mets. In fact, she had to hire an attorney and her pay STILL lagged far behind her male counterparts.

      But what the heck? She's a woman, right? What kind of deal could she expect?

      Delete
    2. Yeah, good point. It's shocking, shocking!, that someone hired in a declining industry would make less than her counterpart!

      Has anything ever been more shocking?!

      Delete
  3. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel no sympathy for Jill Abramson at all. As annoying as all those big and little s---- around and above her at the Times are, I’ve never had the feeling that she was any good in particular, and I don’t like the feeling of having to think well of someone after the fact when I’m pretty sure that I wouldn't have thought well of them otherwise. Indeed, that’s not unrelated to IMO one of the basic problems about the Times, which I’ve heard voiced in the last few days by several talented former fellow cellmates at the Chicago Tribune — that the Times is “the best paper we have,” and therefore any sense of satisfaction one might feel about there being trouble afoot there is akin to giving aid and comfort to the enemy or some such. I think the Times and Times people have been merrily skating on that thin ice for years and years. The Times needs to be looked at not compared to, say, the best paper in Louisville, Ky., or San Diego but by our best and fair standards of what a really good paper should be; and by those standards there’s been so many utterly unnecessary failures, screw-ups, games given away, etc. there for such a long time — all of this more or less a byproduct of that "the Times is the Times” and therefore must be celebrated and defended stance -- that I think it’s well past the date for that sort of b.s. to be over. Is Abramson better or worse than Raines and Keller were? Was she paid less than they were and treated less well than they were when she was shown the door? I don’t care one bit. All I know is that everything that’s been wrong about the Times over the years is a byproduct of what the Times itself is (its blend of fear and arrogance) and what Times people think they are. That Abramson had that gothic “T” tattooed on her back pretty much says it all — that along with her statement to Nate Silver’s agent that “The Times is always the prettiest girl in the room.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yes. That horrid, awful New York Times. We're soooo much smarter, because we read Somerby.

      You know what, Larry? It's just this kind of holier-than-thou and smarter-than-thou bullshit that let's Bob pretend that he's on top of the game while he still writes a one-man 1998-style blog, and can attract a few nimrods who will tell him daily how smart he is, and how smart they are for reading this trainwreck.

      Honest to God, I've been reading this blog for years. It used to be timely and topical. Nowadays, it's picking nits over one word, and entirely missing the point of the whole Abramson thing.

      And I am sure she will cry herself to sleep tonight knowing that both Somerby and you don't much like her.

      Delete
    2. Anon 5:42 has his feelings hurt that Howler criticizes looney-toon Salon writers and Obama apologists like Rachel Maddow.

      Delete
    3. More importantly, "pushy" is not a sexist word. None of us here had ever heard anyone ever claim that pushy is a sexist word.

      Delete
    4. Meanwhile you 'll keep reading Bob's blog and expending pixels on how unworthy it is.

      Somerby is lucky in his enemies.

      Delete
    5. Bob will tend to beat a singly point to death even when he is correct overall, as I expect he is in this instance.

      Delete
    6. Honest to God, Cecelia, is that all you got? Every time you gotta throw in your two cents, it's always, "Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Then why are you still here?"

      Yeah, Bob is lucky in his "enemies." (How "tribal" of you to divide into "friends" and "enemies") Because he's got so damned few "friends" left, if it weren't for the people who come to laugh at his latest buffoonery, he'd hardly have anyone clicking on to this ghost town of a blog.

      But you certainly are a fine example of his "friends". How many decades ago was your last original thought?

      Delete
    7. Larry, your comment would be more legible if you had divided it into paragraphs.

      Delete
  4. Right -- it's an anti-Semitic term. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did anyone ever tell Tal Fortgang the Check His Privelege, and if so, why didn't it have the magical effect?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It had the effect it has on most of us. Reinforcing our rejection of the weirdos on the left.

      Delete
    2. My problem is that Fortgang never named names. That, in my opinion, makes him no different than Rachel Maddow.

      Delete
  6. "His writing makes it very hard to know what's being said."

    ReplyDelete
  7. For the benefit of Anonymous — but he/she won’t like it any better this way:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel no sympathy for Jill Abramson at all. As annoying as all those big and little s---- around and above her at the Times are, I’ve never had the feeling that she was any good in particular, and I don’t like the feeling of having to think well of someone after the fact when I’m pretty sure that I wouldn't have thought well of them otherwise.

    Indeed, that’s not unrelated to IMO one of the basic problems about the Times, which I’ve heard voiced in the last few days by several talented former fellow cellmates at the Chicago Tribune — that the Times is “the best paper we have,” and therefore any sense of satisfaction one might feel about there being trouble afoot there is akin to giving aid and comfort to the enemy or some such. I think the Times and Times people have been merrily skating on that thin ice for years and years.

    The Times needs to be looked at not compared to, say, the best paper in Louisville, Ky., or San Diego but by our best and fair standards of what a really good paper should be; and by those standards there’s been so many utterly unnecessary failures, screw-ups, games given away, etc. there for such a long time — all of this more or less a byproduct of that "the Times is the Times” and therefore must be celebrated and defended stance -- that I think it’s well past the date for that sort of b.s. to be over.

    Is Abramson better or worse than Raines and Keller were? Was she paid less than they were and treated less well than they were when she was shown the door? I don’t care one bit. All I know is that everything that’s been wrong about the Times over the years is a byproduct of what the Times itself is (its blend of fear and arrogance) and what Times people think they are. That Abramson had that gothic “T” tattooed on her back pretty much says it all — that along with her statement to Nate Silver’s agent that “The Times is always the prettiest girl in the room.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent work.

      Delete
    2. This helped me gaze much more clearly on the soul of our world.

      Delete
    3. Nice comment, Larry.

      Delete
    4. Well, Larry, by your logic, Lilly Ledbetter made pretty good dough at Goodyear, and that is another humongous company that is headed downhill. So I guess we shouldn't care about the fact that Lilly was paid a lot less than every male who held the same job as she did.

      I know it's hard for brainwashed BOBfans to do who are already convinced that the NYT is one of the primary causes of the decline of Western Civilization.

      But remove "New York Times" from the discussion and pretend we are talking about Acme Widgets.

      The first female to hold one of the very top jobs at Acme Widgets is paid FAR less than her predecessors. She hires an attorney. She is shown the door.

      In their official spin to explain it, adjectives are applied to Abramson that would never be applied to a male -- in fact, the same adjectives might be considered positive in a male.

      So what does Somerby glom onto? Whether or not anyone at the Times actually used the word "pushy" -- ignoring that they used other words to plant the same characterization.

      And that is so typical Somerby. Ignore the bigger picture. Concentrate instead on the scratch in the corner and say the whole picture is flawed.

      Delete
  8. I was thinking they were trying to get rid of Maureen Dowd but made a mistake!

    ReplyDelete

  9. How To Stop A Divorce And Save Your Marriage?(Dr Brave).


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    ReplyDelete
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