Some interesting developments in the journalism world today.
First, in New York:
In an abrupt change of leadership, The New York Times on Wednesday dismissed Jill Abramson as executive editor and replaced her with Dean Baquet, the managing editor.
Speaking to a stunned newsroom that had been quickly assembled to hear the news, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company, said that he had made the decision because of “an issue with management in the newsroom.”
Ms. Abramson, 60, had been in the job only since September 2011. But people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tensions in her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, many of them over his concerns about her management. Her style has been described as mercurial and brusque. They had disagreements even before she was appointed executive editor, and she had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet
That’s a huge deal and I’m sure leaves most people in the profession stunned. After all, people usually know when something like this is going to happen. The powers that be in the profession (the publishers, not the editors) usually leave breadcrumbs with other media outlets when they’re about to lower the boom on their newsroom leaders. There are three major newspapers in the U.S., and in the past shake-ups of the two that weren’t the New York Times, you suspected some kind of overthrow was in the works. But this situation at the Times, despite last month’s anti-Jill piece in Politico, caught everyone by surprise.
But that’s not all that happened today. Something just as big happened in Paris:
Faced with a newsroom revolt, the editor in chief of Le Monde, France’s most prominent newspaper, stepped down on Wednesday after a 14-month tenure marked by staff resistance to her efforts to push the paper faster and more fully into the digital era.
The editor, Natalie Nougayrède, had been criticized by her staff for a top-down management style and an inability to build consensus. The discontent was focused largely on a plan to redesign the newspaper and its electronic applications and transfer more than 50 staff members from the print newspaper to the digital operation.
Two of her deputies announced their resignations last week, and seven other editors resigned weeks earlier in opposition to the way Ms. Nougayrède, 47, and the paper’s owners were going about changing Le Monde.
This, unlike in New York, seemed to be inevitable. But still, it’s odd that two of the most powerful women in global journalism were sacked on the same day. And it’s troubling that in both cases, the underlying reason for their dismissals is that “they were bossy.” Because it reminds me of this:
In both cases, there’s also word that the two editors were moving toward a digital strategy that faced resistance in their newsrooms. If newspaper publishers at The Times and Le Monde are hoping to preserve a print product and getting rid of people who are trying to speed up the transition to a digital format, they won’t have much time to deal with criticism that their actions in these two firings were sexist. They’re going to collapse anyway because print is dying.