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Sacking NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson

by Stephen Lendman Sunday, May. 18, 2014 at 12:32 AM


Sacking NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson

by Stephen Lendman

In September 2011, she succeeded Bill Keller. On May 14, The Times headlined "Times Ousts Jill Abramson as Executive Editor, Elevating Dean Baquet."

It reflects "an abrupt change of leadership." Times chairman/publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. claimed "an issue with management in the newsroom."

Times staff familiar with her relationship with Sulzberger suggested she was "polarizing and mercurial." She "clash(ed) with (managing editor) Baquet.

He was "angered" over Abramson's "job offer" to senior London Guardian editor Janine Gibson. She wanted her as "co-managing editor."

"Conflict between them arose." Sulzberger got involved. He decided earlier to sack her. On May 15, he appointed Baquet executive editor.

"(N)either side (explained) detail(s) about Abramson's firing," said The Times. She was its first female executive editor in its 160-year history.

In 1997, she joined the broadsheet. She served as Washington bureau chief. As managing editor.

Earlier she was a Wall Street Journal correspondent/reporter/deputy bureau chief. The American Lawyer staff reporter.

The same capacity at Time magazine. As Legal Times editor-in-chief. She taught at Princeton. She's an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow.

As an undergraduate, she was arts editor of the Harvard Independent.

In 2012, Forbes named her its fifth most powerful woman. She ranked after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and Melinda Gates.

Michelle Obama ranked seventh. IMF chief Christine Lagarde was eighth.

Baquet is The Times first African-American executive editor. He promised staff he'd "listen hard…be hands on…be engaged…walk the room. That's the only way I know how to edit," he said.

David Bromwich is Yale University Professor of Literature. On May 15, he headlined "After 9/11: The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Don't."

He writes on civil liberty issues. About "America's wars of choice." About its "continuous engagement in multiple wars."

"And if not wars, then widely distributed black-op killings, in faraway places where (America claims having an) interest."

Officially it's called counterterrorism. Their alleged terrorism, not ours.

Bromwich called civil liberty wars "poisonous." Fundamental freedoms are destroyed. "(T)hings come up every day," he said.

He addressed Abramson's sacking. He cited Sulzberger's claimed reasons. They "seem credible enough," he said.

"(A)nd yet, the same qualities were compatible with (lots) of her predecessors." It begs the question. Why was Abramson sacked and not them?

It's unlikely for her management style. She learned former executive editor Bill Keller earned more than she did. She asked for a raise. Likely comparable pay and benefits.

It sounds credible, said Brownwich. Hardly reason to sack her. Or wanting a co-managing editor. As executive editor, it was her call.

Nothing suggested she was wrong. Executives make important decisions. It's their job. They get fired for serious bad ones. Ones adversely affecting profits.

Abramson likely thought added managing editor strength would boost Times readership. It was her call to make. No reason to sack her.

Something else led Sulzberger to do so. Other than what he said.

In January, Abramson called Julian Assange and Edward Snowden heroes.

"I view (Snowden), as I did Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as a very good source of extremely newsworthy information," she said.

The Times didn't cover his revelations straightaway. At the same time, Abramson didn't avoid controversy.

Months earlier, she called the Obama administration "the most secretive" in her experience.

"I dealt directly with the Bush White House," she said. "(W)hen they had concerns (about) stories (relating) to national security…"

"The Obama administration had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history."

"It's on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with."

It reflects direct orders from Obama, she added. In June 2013, she expressed concern over Justice Department officials surveilling reporters.

She said "the process of news gathering is being criminalized." Perhaps her views came home to roost.  

Perhaps the real reason for her sacking. Publicly criticizing US policy Times correspondents, commentators and editors defend in print appears cause for dismissal.

It reflects gross hypocrisy. Publishing one thing. Saying something entirely different at times. Bashing the White House The Times deplorably defends in print.

Baquet avoided doing it. As Times managing editor or elsewhere. He was a New Orleans-based Times-Picayune journalist. Then the Chicago Tribune.

In 1990, he became The Times' metropolitan editor. Then a business desk special projects one.

In 2000, he became LA Times managing editor. Then editor-in-chief. In 2007, he returned to the NYT. His positions included Washington bureau chief, national editor, assistant managing editor, managing editor, and now executive editor.

In 2006, he killed an LA Times story about NSA spying on Americans. About wiretapping them. About operating illegally.

About unconstitutional data-mining. About troubling civil liberty violations. About authorizing searches on millions of Americans without court-authorized warrants.

Mark Klein worked for AT&T for 22 years. In 2004, he retired. After doing so, he turned whistleblower.

He revealed blueprints and photographs of NSA's secret room. It's inside the company's San Francisco facility.

Three other whistleblowers submitted affidavits. They explained post-9/11 lawless NSA spying on millions of Americans.

The FBI, CIA, Pentagon, state and local agencies operate the same way.

Spies "R" us defines US policy. America is a total surveillance state. It's unsafe to live in. Everyone is suspect unless proved otherwise.

The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed warrantless spying. It passed with little debate.

On December 30, 2012, Obama signed it into law. Doing so largely went unnoticed.

Warrantless spying remains law for another five years. Phone calls, emails, and other communications may be monitored secretly without court authorization.

Probable cause isn't needed. So-called "foreign intelligence information" is sought. Virtually anything qualifies. Vague language is all-embracing.

Constitutional protections don't matter. All major US telecommunications companies are involved.

So are online ones. They have been since 9/11. Things now are worse than then.

One expert said what's ongoing "isn't a wiretap. It's a country-tap." It's lawless.

Congress has no authority to subvert constitutional provisions. Legislation passed has no legitimacy. Constitutional changes require amendments.

The Patriot Act trampled on Bill of Rights protections. Doing so for alleged security doesn't wash. Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were compromised.

So were First Amendment freedom of association ones. Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated. Unchecked sweeping surveillance followed.

So-called "sneak and peak" searches are conducted through "delayed notice" warrants, roving wiretaps, email tracking, as well as Internet and phone use.

Section 215 pertains to alleged suspects, real or contrived. It authorizes government access to "any tangible item."

Included are financial records and transactions, education and medical records, phone conversations, emails, other Internet use, and whatever else Washington wants to monitor.

Individuals and organizations may be surveilled whether or not evidence links them to terrorism or complicity to commit it. In other words, everyone is fair game for any reason or none at all.

Post-9/11, sweeping surveillance became policy. What Bush began, Obama escalated.

Privacy rights are systematically violated. Good journalism requires telling people what they most need to know.

Media scoundrels suppress it. They bury truth. They substitute misinformation rubbish. They lie, distort, mislead, conceal and twist reporting to fit official US policy.

They mock legitimate journalism. They betray its core ethical standards. They shame themselves in the process.

Expect Baquet to continue The Times ignoble tradition. It supports wealth, power and privilege.

It does so at the expense of popular interests. Burying truth and full disclosure. Expect more of the same going forward.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.
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