Friday, May 16, 2014

Inside the New York Times!



What, exactly, is going on at the New York Times and why we'll never know and why the real problem is everywhere else!

Let's assume your every waking hour is not occupied with thoughts about The New York Times and what just happened to its editor, Jill Abramson, who was unceremoniously dumped by the head capo. 

The first round of scuttlebutt from the paper obviously came from Jill supporters who let it be known she boldly challenged upper management because she was being paid less than her predecessors in the job. It was a very convenient and dependable way to grab the high ground because everyone knows equal work demands equal pay everywhere. In light of all that, we got this on Huffington Post. It makes Jill's situation seem pretty unfair. One might argue she didn't have to take those jobs at those salaries at all, but that is thinking in retrospect. If one is committed to equal pay for equal work, and the New York Times and the liberal establishment certainly is, then all you can think is that the situation had a really bad smell to it.

The New York Times fired back with its own Sulzberger-level broadside cum explainer in which the boss did everything but hang Jill's knickers on the front of the building for everyone to see. The not so hidden message is that Jill was crabby and pushy in the newsroom and maybe just too cranky to be in charge.  If this was aimed at calming the furies, probably not. She went from being an underpaid, tough, diligent leader to pushy bitch in just a few hours.

Everyone knows that the last genuinely pushy bitch at the New York Times was Abe Rosenthal and that everyone else everywhere else in journalism was a cheap imitator. If it was okay for Abe to be so pushy, why wasn't it okay for Jill to be pushy? Maybe she just wanted to make certain she didn't get trapped by some Jayson Blair incarnate, the liar reporter who ruined his own career and the careers of a whole brace of Times heavyweights.

All of which takes the focus away from a big and troubling issue in journalism, the fact that women are paid lots less than men for the same work all over the place. Having now educated seven years worth of journalism classes, I can say with absolute certainly that there's no difference between men and women except that women tend to be more dependable in turning in their class work.

So I was surprised by an amazing coincidence that landed in the mail just as the Times was stumbling through its latest problem. Straight from Ernie Pyle Hall at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. came the summary of the 2013 American Journalist survey. There's lots of dark stuff about the news business in the survey, including the fact that job satisfaction is withering.

But this is more important than that. The median salary for women in journalism in 2012 was 83 percent of the median salary for men in the same positions. Even the veterans, those with 20 years or more on the job, earned 6.6 percent less than the men. The income gap among journalists with a dozen years or so on the job is even worse, 21.4 percent.

So don't make the mistake of thinking The Times response to Jill's dismissal reflects any kind of real progress in the field. After all, gap or not, she was making a huge pot of money as editor at The Times, no matter what her predecessors collected.

I don't know what Dean Baquet, the new editor, will make as he tries to fix the mess. Whatever it is, he is worth it. Anyone who has ever worked with him knows his value and his values. The Times is lucky to have him and should have tapped him earlier.


The median salary for everyone else in journalism was $50,028, according to the university.

Man or woman, that was a great salary when I was making it in about 1981.

Pretty sad for now.

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