New Yorker stands by Abramson salary-gap story
The New Yorker is standing by a Thursday night story by media writer Ken Auletta in which he wrote that New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy conceded that former executive editor Jill Abramson's inquiries into pay inequities at the paper were a contributing factor in her firing.
Auletta has had a steady stream of scoops following Abramson's dismissal this week, none more discussed than his report that Abramson confronted upper management upon learning that her pay in her time climbing the editorial ranks had been lower than some of her male counterparts. Abramson, Auletta wrote, recently hired a lawyer to look into the matter.
The Times has voiced objection to the salary gap story, including in a Thursday memo to staffers from chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. who originally sought to silence the conversation about the reasons for Abramson's dismissal but could not, it seems, resist the temptation to weigh in on the matter of her compensation. But he did so without giving actual numbers, providing the prompt for Auletta's follow-up.
"It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors," Sulzberger wrote in the memo. "Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors."
While admitting that pension benefits, payouts and stock options also might factor in, Auletta's numbers seem to contradict Sulzberger's broad statement:
As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman.
Murphy cautioned that one shouldn’t look at salary but, rather, at total compensation, which includes, she said, any bonuses, stock grants, and other long-term incentives. This distinction appears to be the basis of Sulzberger’s comment that Abramson was not earning “significantly less.” But it is hard to know how to parse this without more numbers from the Times.
But the part that really seemed to seal the deal was Murphy's apparent admission that all this was a factor in Abramson's dismissal.
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, argued that there was no real compensation gap, but conceded to me that “this incident was a contributing factor” to the firing of Abramson, because “it was part of a pattern.”
Murphy wrote to Auletta after his Thursday story disputing the quote's context and requesting a correction. In an update posted at 9 a.m. this morning, Auletta added Murphy's objection, but stuck by his notes. In the response, Murphy wrote that Abramson's decision to lawyer up over the salary gap only caused frustration among management, but that it did not form part of the greater "pattern" that led to her firing.
Here's the update in full.
Update: Murphy wrote to me after this post went up to dispute this. Her quote is accurate and in context, as I’ve confirmed in my notes. However, she now e-mails: “I said to you that the issue of bringing a lawyer in was part of a pattern that caused frustration. I NEVER said that it was part of a pattern that led to her firing because that is just not true.”