TWO WOMEN: A familiar old story!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2014

Interlude—Two letter writers explain: We're having connectivity issues today. Thanks to a special arrangement with Kinko's, we're able to bring you this post.

What explains Jill Abramson's plight? In this morning's New York Times, two readers fall back on a familiar old story.

This story has often been right in the past. It could even be right in this case! The first letter writer, from West Newton, Mass., feels sure about what she's been hearing:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: I’ve been a reader of The New York Times for a very long time now, and this is the first time that I am really angry with its management. I know that the publisher has the right to fire anyone on the staff, but it should be for poor performance.

The part of Jill Abramson’s performance as executive editor that I care about is providing full and accurate news, which she has done; witness the eight Pulitzers during her tenure. The rest seems to be issues of poor communication, the fault for which may lie on either side, or both.

When adjectives like “pushy” and “mercurial” are widely used in discussions of the firing of the first female executive editor of The Times, I know what I’m hearing.

Prove to me and other faithful female readers that The Times is not an old boys’ club underneath it all.
Has this reader heard the term "pushy" applied to Abramson? Actually yes, she has.

Last week, Abramson's daughter used the term in an Instagram bearing that hashtag. At the same time, The New Yorker's Ken Auletta put the word "pushy" in quotes, without identifying anyone who has actually said it. Auletta seemed to be presenting Team Abramson's account of Abramson's plight.

The magic word "pushy" jumped straight to Salon and into millions of hearts. The term has been thrown around quite a bit. But has anyone actually said the word, other than Abramson's team?

The second letter writer tells a version of this same story. The story has often been true in the past. Is it true in this case?
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: I couldn’t help but notice the simultaneous ousters of The New York Times’s executive editor and Le Monde’s editor in chief, both women, reported on the same day...

Despite cultural differences in French and American journalism, the reasons given for both women’s expulsion demonstrate a remarkable parallel: a “mercurial” and brusque management style in the case of Jill Abramson at The Times, and a “top-down management style” for Natalie Nougayrède at Le Monde. When have such management styles been a liability for male editors?

Ms. Abramson and Ms. Nougayrède, whose competence was never in question, were both the first women to occupy these top roles in their papers. It’s a sad day for journalism when the female leaders of two of the world’s foremost newspapers are told to be less demanding in order to win the backing of their senior editors and publishers.
According to this standard story, no man could ever get in trouble for a brusque management style. Tomorrow, we'll show you the way Howell Raines was described in 2003, when he was booted from the same job Abramson has now lost.

It's easy to fall back on standard old stories to explain new events. Such stories have often been right in the past. The story told by these letter writers may be right in this case.

On the other hand, standard old stories may sometimes blind us to the realities of the present. That may be happening in this case. We think it did happen with regard to the plight of D'Leisha Dent.

Dent's plight has been explained through use of a familiar old story about segregation in the South. Some elements of that story seem to obtain in Dent's case. But we think the old story served to obscure a much more important plight.

Connectivity willing, we'll discuss Howell Raines tomorrow. We'll discuss Dent's plight all next week.

For what it's worth, the New York Times has done an abysmal job discussing the plight of kids like Dent, both under Abramson's leadership and before. All the flash off those Pulitzer Prizes can't obscure that fact.

Each writer feel certain of Abramson's competence. Her newspaper's treatment of kids like Dent tells us they shouldn't feel sure.

49 comments:

  1. Still coming: A look at the gap

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  2. D’Leisha Dent is not high status. In our view, her plight was novelized a bit too, at which point it disappeared!

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  3. The girl has been accepted yet he still writes saying nothing. False equivalence. Plus the series is numbered funny as KZ pointed out.

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    Replies
    1. Not quite as funny as Maddow missing a page number, but still...

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    2. It's sad to see the numbering issues persist as bloggers few remaining readers squirm and try to rationalize.

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    3. Alas, rationalizing can't obscure flashy novelization.

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  4. The incoming editor has said his top priority is more coverage of black kids.

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    1. At one point or another it is rumored he was one. That said, His skin never strikes us as an ad for mud-packing Manhattan spas.

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    2. Was he a black kid? For ourselves, we don't know,

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    3. Some of my best friends were black kids I don't know.

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  5. I wonder why Somerby did not mention the fourth letter.

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  6. Replies
    1. That's easy to say with your privileged early access to the alphabet

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  7. I was once fired along with my boss, the CEO of a small insurance company at a point where we were not making money. The firing seemed most unfair, since we had brought the company back from the brink of bankruptcy. But, that's life in the executive suite. My transition was unpleasant, but we both wound up with better jobs.

    My point is, there's nothing unusual about Abramson being let go, even if she was fully competent. Life isn't always fair.

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    1. To conservatives, injustice is just a fact of life to accept. Dems da breaks. Nature of the beast. Dog eat dog world. etc Hard to see society advancing with such an attitude.

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    2. Interesting point, Anon. In many European countries, it's a lot harder to fire executives. That may be one reason why US execs are paid more than their European counterparts. No doubt, European execs are more comfortable than US execs. OTOH there are probably more mis-managed companies in Europe.

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    3. Probably. But we'll likely never know. Things might be different if two world wars had been fought elsewhere. Or if many of their best had no left for here to become really good, outstanding kids. Nobody cared much though. At least in Liberland.

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    4. To conservatives, injustice is just a fact of life

      To progressives, justice that hurts the feelings of a black or female or gay or transgender person is injustice.

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    5. Please supply an example of "justice" that hurts people's feelings and the names of some "progressives" who think that's "injustice."

      Thanks.

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    6. One individual being admitted college over another of inferior qualification. Entirely just, but a grave injustice to a progressive. Or one editor being fired for inferior performance. Or this gem, a school eliminating special honors night for exceptional students because it might hurt feelings of underachievers. Progressives become more absurd by the day.

      http://eastgreenwich.patch.com/groups/schools/p/cole-middle-school-cancels-honors-night

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    7. You know the problem with an inferior student being accepted over a superior student isn't about race by the vociferous attacks against legacy acceptance.
      Remember, nothing is about race.

      Berto

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    8. Anonymous @1:16P,

      Sorry, but I don't see how someone being admitted to college over another of inferior qualification counts as "entirely just." I'd guess progressives would complain about rigid qualification schemes that systematically exclude qualified people. Like reliance on SAT scores that have little value in predicting success in college.

      Sorry, but I don't see how someone being fired for inferior performance counts as a "grave injustice" to anyone.

      You link to a story about a school principal and his assistant principal. These are educationist administrators, often the least progressive people in a school district.

      That's three strikes. Thanks for playing.

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    9. 1:16, I see nothing in the story you linked to that indicates the Honors Night was being cancelled because other students might get their feelings hurt.

      Sounds like it was ended because it was, and a quote, "exclusive" to the students and their parents.

      The story goes on to say that the same students would be honored at "team-based recognition ceremonies" (whatever that is), and at graduation.

      So it seems you can dry your tears over middle schoolers not getting the recognition they deserve.

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    10. @DR you're actually denying that the very just practices of admitting better qualified students over lesser qualified students, without regard to race and gender, or firing underperforming NYT editors and others whose job performance is inferior, without regard to race and gender, or honoring academic achievers in middle school with separate ceremonies, without regard for those who underachieve, are labeled "injustices" by progressives and considered anti-progressive practices? If you're that detached from reality there's no point in further discussion.

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    11. deadrat -- we already debated whether SAT scores predict success in college. PBS reported a study that showed that SAT scores are not predictive of success:

      "Hiss’ data showed that there was a negligible difference in college performance between the two groups. Only .05 percent of a GPA point set “submitters” and “non-submitters” apart, and the difference in their graduation rates was just .6 percent."

      However, as I then argued, courses and majors aren't equal. An "A" in Advance Physics or in Groups, Rings and Fields isn't the same as an "A" in a lot of other courses IMHO.

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    12. Sorry, my synapses were misfiring both on input and output. I blame the drugs. Of course, in theory admitting better qualified students is more just than admitting unqualified students in their place. I just don't think you'll find many progressives who think this is untrue as a theoretical proposition. I do think you'll find progressives who are skeptical of defining "qualified" largely on say, SAT scores, which have little correlation with success in college. Especially when this kind of justice goes out the window when admissions officers are considering athletes, legacies, and the children of wealthy donors.

      I don't think you'll find progressives who think that underperforming editors should keep their jobs. I think you'll find progressives who are skeptical of the self-serving explanations from executives who fired the editors for "underperforming."

      And, as I pointed out, you have no basis for thinking that progressives fill the ranks of high-school administration. That's notoriously the home of petty fascists.

      In your simple world, there's a meter that can measure the qualification for college of high-school graduates: just attach a lead to each ear lobe and read the meter. In your simple-minded world, we can take the boss' word for his motivations for removing women editors. And, of course, in your world, a progressive is someone who does something of which you disapprove.

      What color is the sky in your world?

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    13. DAinCA,

      In all fairness, I should only have to win a particular argument with you once. IMHO.

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    14. Deadrat is logic impaired. A lower score on an SAT as non predictive of performance would affect all races. Red herring. Systematically selecting blacks wih lower SAT scores all other criteria being equal is unjust. Selecting the higher score, imperfect as it is, is just. Unless you're a dumb progressive.

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    15. And, as I pointed out, you have no basis for thinking that progressives fill the ranks of high-school administration. That's notoriously the home of petty fascists.

      It's debatable whether liberals were ever the party of civil liberties. But, there's little doubt today that liberals tend to support big, strong government. That is, government powerful enough to push people around. E.g., the Kelo Decision was supported by liberal Justices and opposed by Conservatives.

      Conservatives generally support smaller government overall, though not in all areas. The libertarian-leaning Tea Party would be the group most supportive of civil liberties. As some wag put it, "Wouldn't it be terrible if the Tea Party won and just left you alone."

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    16. Anonymous @7:31P,

      You've got the proper definition of justice, but I'm logic impaired. Got it.

      What a maroon.

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    17. DAinCA,

      I don't know who's the bigger idiot. Jonah Goldberg for thinking that Mussolini was a liberal or you for taking seriously anything Jonah Goldberg has to say.

      Yeah, there's little doubt day that liberals tend to support big, strong government. That is, government powerful enough to push people around, like owners of public accommodations who don't want to serve black people. It's also true that conservatives tend to support big, strong government. That is, government powerful enough to push people around, like women who want to exercise their right to an abortion.

      Kelo v. City of New London, 545US469 (2005) decided two issues: whether a state legislative finding of a public good in economic development qualified as "public use" as used in the Fifth Amendment's eminent domain clause and whether the Connecticut constitution allowed the transfer of private land to a private owner. The majority of the court, composed of the more liberal justices, deferred to the rights of the state in the matter of eminent domain; the more conservative justices abandoned their previous love for the rights of those meth labs of democracy. The petitioner Kelo, the original private owner, got a libertarian law firm, the so-called Institute for Justice, to represent her and attracted the NAACP as an amicus.

      As usual, you're ignorant of the topic you write about.

      The Tea Party is a group of people who want theirs but don't want to pay taxes that they perceive go to others. Big surprise that they support small government except when they don't.

      Life just isn't as clear cut as you and Jonah seem to think. Go figure.

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    18. David in Cal,

      non-conservatives - liberals, progressives, whatever - want to find solutions to problems. The size of government is not their concern beyond whatever size it takes to best solve problems. Conservatives aren't interested in other people's problems. They are concerned about the size of the government that goes toward helping other people. The size of the government that serves their own needs is the size they are comfortable with.

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    19. deadrat -- Liberal Fascism didn't argue that Mussolini was a liberal. It argued that many liberals admired the way Mussolini was governing. The book proves this point with many, many quotes.

      Regardless of the rationale, in Kelo, liberal justices said the government could take your property and give it to a developer. The conservatives said the government couldn't do that. Note also, that the liberals were voting against the lower-middle-class, non-influential homeowners in favor of big, rich developers. So much for being the party of the poor.

      AnonymousMay 22, 2014 at 10:19 PM -- Yes, what you have stated is the theory. However, in practice it often doesn't work that way. First of all, in many cases government is the problem. Even programs set up to solve a problem often live on and grow, after they have solved the problem. Secondly, once the government has all that money, a lot of it winds up going to special interests and to those who've made donations to the ins.

      Texas and California are both border states with lots of natural resources. It's not a coincidence that Texas's economy is doing better than California's. it's not a coincidence that the current economic recovery is so puny. Too much government regulation and taxation hurt everyone, except for government employees. It's not a coincidence that Washington D.C. is doing better economically than most other areas of the country.

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    20. Yeah, there's little doubt day that liberals tend to support big, strong government. That is, government powerful enough to push people around, like owners of public accommodations who don't want to serve black people.

      You forgot that progressives want a government big and strong enough to stop businesses from opening that are owned by people whose opinions they disagree with, such as Chik fil A. It's not fringe democrats who are corrupt enough to try to crush citizens for their beliefs, but mainstream power players like the mayors of Boston and Chicago.

      But you forgot to mention them.

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    21. I forgot to mention them because they largely don't exist. I don't have to defend grandstanding mayors (Boston, Chicago) to debunk the notion that liberals are the true fascists. The mayor of Boston has publicly declared that his reaction to Chick-Fil-A was a mistake and that he doesn't have the authority to block their restaurants in his city. There are two C-F-As in Chicago.

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    22. DAinCA,

      Your abyssal ignorance continues unabated. It's JG's thesis that both Mussolini and Hitler each was a "man of the left." He does this by redefinition of terms and selective quotation, mostly of fools in this country who thought that when Mussolini came to power, he made the trains run on time. (He didn't.) How many of these lefties were awarded and accepted the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle?

      Sometimes the law doesn't comport with your view of things. The government *can* take your property for the common good, and if your state allows that in ways that are undesirable, then your state should change its laws. Usually rightards are displeased when Justices twist the law to please some constituency. Five Justices are not the Democratic Party, and their ruling in Kelo doesn't mean the Democratic Party isn't the "party of the poor." There are other reasons they aren't.

      Dontcha just hate government regulation? Good thing we've got places like Texas where unregulated fertilizer plants are allowed near schools and homes.

      And remember when government employees were exempted from taxes and regulations?

      Me neither.

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    23. The mayor of Boston has publicly declared that his reaction to Chick-Fil-A was a mistake and that he doesn't have the authority to block their restaurants in his city.

      That has to be the weakest counterargument I've ever seen. The mayors backed off of their intended and attempted Stalinism only because there was pushback by conservatives and the few liberals remaining who don't consider themselves "progressives" as the term is best defined now (Stalinists).

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    24. Don't want to accept that the mayor of Boston was sincere in calling his reaction to Chick-Fil-A a mistake? Fine. You want to believe that "intended Stalinism" is what was was going on or is even a thing? Also fine. Let's just not pretend that liberals or progressives or the left in this country are or ever were the real fascists in the world. Even if Jonah Goldberg can find some lefty writers in the '30s who thought Mussolini made the trains run on time.

      And while you're at it, you can stop pretending that the mayor of Boston pays any attention to "pushback" from conservatives, or has any political reason to do so.

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  8. Bob, the connectivity problems have been rolloing about blog sites and should be solved shortly.

    LTR

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  9. Did anyone call Abramson pushy? The media say yes without evidence.

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    1. Who is "the media." You state this without evidence.

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  10. David in Cal is pushy. Maybe that's why he was let go.

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  11. The larger question for the Times is why they let Maureen Dowd have a column?

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    1. I'd like an answer to that too.

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  12. What the heck is segregation? Who the hell is Sam Hill?

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  13. Comments tl;dr? Here's the synopsis: The trolls have nothing, again. Again and again and again.

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