Boy, that Jill Abramson sounds like a real piece of work, huh?

Shock news: female boss of the New York Times is bossy.

 

There's an incredible story on Politico today about "turbulence" over the New York Times's executive editor, Jill Abramson. It's fascinating because it sets out to prove that Abramson's juniors have a problem with her, that's she cold and condescending, but all the evidence it brings to attempt to convict her just seems . . . well . . . meh.

Behold:

In one meeting, Abramson was upset with a photograph that was on the homepage. Rather than asking for a change to be made after the meeting, she turned to the relevant editor and, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, said bluntly, “I don’t know why you’re still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo.”

Heady stuff. I've literally never worked in a newsroom where an editor has been unhappy with something and has said so in front of everyone. 

In another meeting, an editor asked about The Times Company’s recent decision to rename the International Herald Tribune as “The International New York Times.” Abramson reportedly snapped: That issue has been settled, she said. Why would we even bother getting into that?

Ouch. What kind of monster doesn't just let employees rehash old discussions?

There's an intriguing comparison throughout with Abramson's managing editor, Dean Baquet. In the opening of the piece, he steams out of her office in an episode he himself calls a "tantrum". And yet:

Where Abramson’s approach has caused anxiety, Baquet’s ability to march forward has provided reassurance.

Reading the piece, you can't help but feel that what might get read as "strength" or "not suffering fools gladly" in a male boss, becomes "cold" and "brusque" in a woman.

As Poynter notes, even the NYT's own staff are aware of this angle:

A darker undercurrent runs through the piece, though, one that Managing Editor Dean Baquet attempts to pierce at the beginning. (He and Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy are the only Times sources who spoke on the record.)

“I think there’s a really easy caricature that some people have bought into, of the bitchy woman character and the guy who is sort of calmer,” Baquet told [Politico writer] Dylan Byers. “That, I think, is a little bit of an unfair caricature.”

Update: As Tom Phillips points out, Apple's Tim Cook has a similarly "no nonsense" reputation, except he gets praised for being terse

"[Cook] convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia. 'This is really bad,' Cook told the group. 'Someone should be in China driving this.' Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, with a trace of emotion, 'Why are you still here?'"

Yeah. He didn't just send someone out to change the homepage photo. He sent them to China

Politico's story.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.