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May 16, 2014 11:59 AM Times Should Have Called Around

By Ed Kilgore

I’m not following the Jill Abramson controversy as closely as a lot of people are, perhaps because I’ve never spent a moment burning incense at the altar of the New York Times’ world-bending importance (maybe that’s because I never went to journalism school). But the rather obvious thing that keeps striking me is the irony of one of the planet’s great news-gathering institutions not having enough insight about the media environment to understand that abruptly tossing their first female executive editor out the door amid allegations of pay discrimination would look kinda bad. I mean, they could have called around to pundits on the sly, or conducted a poll, or consulted their own media critics, and the Timesmen would have instantly discovered the stupidity of this course of action.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve on more than one occasion watched an organization go to great lengths to sugar-coat the justified sacking of a senior employee to avoid speculation about the incident. Give ‘em a going-away party, let ‘em pretend they left “to pursue other opportunities,” gild that parachute—you probably know the drill. I’ve also seen organizations deal with firings by asking for the employee’s keys in the termination meeting and then making sure a security guard met them at their desk with a box to collect personal items. That generally occurs with poor schmoes whose fate will not generate Twitter wars or consume the national commentariat. I don’t know if Jill Abramson’s firing was justified or not, but she’s a global celebrity in her profession, and nobody at the Times should be surprised that giving her the bum’s rush would blow up in their faces.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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