At The Times, A Violent Wall-Punching Temper Causes Laughter And Joy
We all know Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a brusque, mercurial, pushy, difficult woman. And a liar. And sneaky. And a woman. And she had to go. She'd made her managing editor, Dean Baquet, real mad, see, by maybe or maybe not asking his permission to hire someone, which is a thing a lady boss is supposed to do when she is a lady. And, according to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of the Times, there were "patterns in the newsroom." Pushy patterns. Mercurial patterns. Crazy bitchy broad patterns. And once Baquet made the "severity of his feelings" known, Sulzberger had no choice but to kick Abramson to the curb and give her job to Baquet. After all, Baquet is "likable and funny" and everyone "basically adores him" and "charming" and "funny" and "a class act" and "a calming personality" and he has a "friendly smile and deeply sympathetic soul." Goddamn, the guy's basically a saint. Unlike, you know, her.
Oh, but then there is this:
Yet Baquet acknowledges he too can become intense amid argument. I asked Baquet about maps that reporters said had been tacked up at the Times' Washington offices to cover several holes he had punched in walls down there.
He laughed and said, "it's true. I should have a lawyer with me for this part, shouldn't I?
"I have a temper," Baquet said, "In each case I was mad at somebody above me in rank. That's not an excuse, but it's a fact."
Gosh. That sure does sound charming and friendly and not AT ALL like the new executive editor maybe has some anger management issues that maybe are not appropriate for the newsroom or the workplace or, like, anywhere. He might have a deeply sympathetic soul, but filling a hole with his tiny fists of rage when he feels "intense" seems sort of ... oh, one might say mercurial. Brusque. Dickish. Totally unacceptably violent. But hey, like Baquet says, "Leaders have to make tough decisions." Guess sometimes walls just need to be punched.
Of course, the most charming and funny and likable and soul-calming part of the whole story is that when asked about his infamously violent temperament, Baquet did not hang his head in shame and remorsefully admit that such past behavior was indeed totally inappropriate. No. He laughed. He laughed. It's true, he said. Hahaha. Sometimes he's just intense like that.
It is astonishing to think that after the first incident of Baquet's "temper," he wasn't immediately dismissed. Even more astonishing that this in no way seems to affect his super-likable reputation and the endless praise heaped upon him when his dreams of taking Abramson's job came true. Report after report compared his temperament with hers, and he was unanimously declared the far calmer, friendlier, more likable of the two. Sure, he may be prone to violence, but she was pushy. PUSHY! What greater crime against humanity is there than that?
We're never going to know the real reason Abramson was fired. The Times acknowledged, and then denied, that Abramson's hiring of an attorney when she suspected she was paid less than her male predecessor was "a contributing factor." The details of whether and how she consulted Baquet before offering a managing editor position to Janine Gibson of the Guardian are murky at best. He says he wasn't consulted, despite several meetings about that very subject. The chronology doesn't really seem to favor his version, given that he was included in conversations about hiring Gibson, unless he thought she was going to be hired to bake cookies. Which is a tad ironic, given that one of the many explanations offered for Abramson's firing was that she was not honest with her publisher about her conversations with Baquet, and lying is a fireable offense. Sometimes. But with Baquet, well, he's such a charming and likable guy that when Sulzberger had to decide whose side to take, of course he took Baquet's. After all, as various people supposedly insisted to Sulzberger, "The one person we cannot lose is Dean Baquet." Sorry, Jill, don't let the masthead kick you on the way out.
The whole story stinks. It stinks eleventeen different ways, but this latest little revelation, this tiny additional insight, that the new executive editor, chosen in part for his not-brusque not-mercurial not-pushy not-a-chick temperament, has a "pattern in the newsroom" of violently losing his temper smells worse than rotting fish. And Baquet sees nothing wrong with it. He says it's true. And he laughs.
Follow Kaili Joy Gray on Twitter. Sometimes she wants to punch all the things too, but she doesn't, because she is a LADY.