Posted by Tom Foremski - May 14, 2014
There is a fascinating account of the firing of Jill Abramson, New York Times' executive editor, reported by Ken Auletta at The New Yorker. She was the first woman in the top job replacing Bill Keller but was sacked after less than three years.
Just before her firing she had made herself very unpopular with the management of the newspaper — publisher Arthur Sulzberger and CEO Mark Thomson — over her opposition to native advertising, a form of advertising that looks like news stories in the newspaper:
Sulzberger’s frustration with Abramson was growing. She had already clashed with the company’s C.E.O., Mark Thompson, over native advertising and the perceived intrusion of the business side into the newsroom. Publicly, Thompson and Abramson denied that there was any tension between them, as Sulzberger today declared that there was no church-state—that is, business-editorial—conflict at the Times. A politician who made such implausible claims might merit a front-page story in the Times.
Following that clash over editorial integrity her days were numbered. When she recently complained about a pay and pension discrepancy it was the last straw and she was fired.
Her opposition to native advertising was the right position to take — even though it meant she became a marked woman and it sealed her fate at the New York Times. The management doesn't understand the importance of readers' trust and how native advertising erodes that trust even though stories are labelled "paid for by Dell."
Without people like Jill Abramson that are willing to put their jobs on the line for an important principle the future of the New York Times looks very grim.
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Native advertising is the world’s worst idea and I can’t believe the New York Times management is so gullible and clueless in agreeing to its publication.
Gullible — because they were talked into giving away their hard won position as the nation’s top newspaper by marketing people looking for short-term gains.
Clueless — because they can’t see the stupidity of their actions and how they’ve shot themselves in the foot, groin, and brains.
The brands and marketing agencies are clueless, too. The practice is exceptionally harmful because it makes it seem as if all content is corrupt.
Native advertising poisons the well of trust that publishers have worked so hard to build, and that advertisers benefit from.