The fallout from the Abramson debacle continues at the NYTimes. It sounds to me like Dean Baquet used his Y chromosome to pull a fast one using Sulzberger’s sympathy as a fellow guy. First, he complained to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) that Jill Abramson hired Janine Gibson at The Guardian as his equal at the NYT in charge of digital content. Gibson says Abramson told her that she had to get Baquet to buy in to the hire before there was a formal offer and, indeed, there was no formal offer to Gibson regarding the position. From the New Yorker piece on Abramson’s firing we learn:
Janine Gibson, speaking publicly for the first time about her meetings with Baquet, clouded the case against Abramson somewhat, at least where the accusation of lying is concerned. “I can’t speak to Dean’s understanding, but it was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed,” she told me. “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Gibson has told friends that, not only did she meet with Baquet for lunch on Monday May 5th, she met that morning with him and Abramson together for more than an hour. She had a separate meeting with Sulzberger and Thompson.
That didn’t stop Baquet from whining that that Abramson hadn’t gotten his sign off, as if it were needed (apparently, in spite of Abramson’s title as executive editor, she needed it. We can only speculate as to why this condition exists.). Baquet says no one told him anything.
Guardian News & Media (GNM) today announced the appointment of Aron Pilhofer – currently associate managing editor for digital strategy at the New York Times – to the newly-created role of executive editor of Digital. The announcement was made by incoming editor-in-chief of theguardian.com, Janine Gibson.
Pilhofer, who is also editor of interactive news at the New York Times, will work across the Guardian’s editorial teams to develop and execute new and innovative digital journalism initiatives and tools to help grow global audiences and deepen reader engagement. His new role will see him helping drive the Guardian’s digital transformation, working in concert with a global team of journalists and developers.
He will start in the Guardian’s US newsroom in June and will move to the Guardian’s offices in London over the summer.
So, to recap:
1.) Janine Gibson, editor of digital content (and now incoming editor in chief) at The Guardian interviews with Baquet and Abramson for a position at the NYT as deputy managing editor of digital content. This position is co-equal to Baquet’s. Digital is the “wave of the future” so it’s important to get someone with experience in this area to do it. Gibson seems very qualified.
2.)Abramson gives an informal offer to Gibson with the proviso that Baquet signs on. Presumably, the co-equal level is going to rattle Baquet. In the meantime, she assures Baquet that she will recommend him as her successor to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) when the time comes. She sets up a dinner for Baquet to talk with Pinch or Punch (or whatever) so his fee-fees can be assuaged.
3.) Baquet stabs Abramson in the back and pulls the gender stereotyped “she is being an autocratic bitch” thing with Pinch or Punch (or whatever). Sulzberger, having heard about Abramson from myriad male sources before, no doubt, finally gives in and fires her, to appoint Baquet to Abramson’s position.
4.) Gibson poaches Pilhofer from the NYTimes. Lovely.
Now, we can look at the Pilhofer pilfer in two ways. The first is that Pilhofer was pretty pissed off that Abramson wouldn’t hire from within and make him managing editor of digital content so he left. But he leaves to work for Gibson, which looks to me like a lateral move, not necessarily a promotion. And the people I’ve known who make such moves are the ones who have absolutely had it. They have a choice and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Pilhofer would have worked for Gibson if she had gone to the NYT so presumably, Gibson was not the problem.
The second way to look at this is that the NYTimes has lost two stellar digital content specialists in the span of a couple of weeks. This is at a time when it couldn’t afford to lose digital content specialists. AND it has fired the editor who was trying to bring in the very person who filched one of their rising stars. Note that putting Baquet in charge did not stop Pilhofer from leaving, in spite of the now more genial, unfailingly politer news room.
This looks like a boneheaded move but not in any way an unusual one. The corporate world is littered with the corpses of women’s careers and good ideas and things that could have been but didn’t come to fruition because some dude’s fragile ego and sense of entitlement was threatened. This is why we can’t have nice things. So, the NYT has a new executive editor and has lost a good chunk of the very talent it needs to grow in the future.
Way to go, Pinch, or Punch (or whatever).