On Wednesday afternoon, The New York Times replaced Jill Abramson as editor-in-chief. She had been on the job for less than three years, and the newsroom was caught off guard:
Everyone gob-smacked in NYT newsroom over Jill Abramson leaving and Dean Baquet taking over—
Patricia Cohen (@PatcohenNYT) May 14, 2014
Among media wags, the question quickly became why Abramson was dismissed. One possible point of conflict between Abramson and Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. was reported by The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta: Abramson, a few weeks prior to her dismissal, “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,” Auletta wrote.
The Times has since pushed back on that story, refuting Auletta’s report to multiple outlets. “Jill’s total compensation as executive editor was not meaningfully less than Bill Keller’s, so that is just incorrect,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Business Insider. In Auletta’s original piece, he reported that a source told him “the pay gap with Keller has since been closed.”
If the pay gap did exist, Abramson wouldn’t have been the only woman in journalism paid less than her male peers. According to the Census Bureau’s 2008-2012 American Community Survey, the median annual earnings for a male editor was $59,183 (+/- $1,467). Female editors made $51,249 (+/- $844).
Editors, Annual Earnings
That obviously doesn’t begin to tell us any of the particulars of what transpired between Abramson and Sulzberger. But it’s context to keep in mind as details emerge about what happened at the Times. Even if Abramson wasn’t paid less than Keller, the broader picture is unchanged: The media, like many, many other industries, pays women less than men.