Jill Abramson Cried. Get Over It.


The formidable Jill Abramson was named executive editor of The New York Times in June 2011. Since she’s taken the helm, The Times has been awarded eight Pulitzer Prizes — a whopping four in 2013 alone — and oversaw the prestigious newspaper’s breathless coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, all points that The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove made in his in-depth profile of Abramson. But amidst the 3,000-word longread, one point stuck with readers and other new sources: Jill Abramson admitted to crying after receiving bad press.

In April, Politico ran a story titled “Turbulence at The Times,” a scathing account of Abramson’s “stubborn” and “condescending” temperament, bolstered by the comments of one anonymous Times employee who described her as “impossible,” listing example after example of her abrasive, take-no-prisoners attitude. The article prompted backlash from media elite like Emily Bell, who criticized the sexist undertones of the Politico article:

For every anonymous source anxious to talk about Abramson’s mood swings, and absences, there could have been a counterbalancing one to talk about how Abramson is more present on the news floor than a number of her predecessors. For every person who talks about the exhausting nature of her management style, there is another who might point out that the news operation is the strongest it has been for a long time. You might even find people who think there is more than a whiff of sexism apparent in the building, and the critiques. None of this, however, feeds the story of a woman in charge who tells people what to do in a manner they don’t like.

In The Daily Beast in-depth, Abramson admits she cried after reading the article:

“I cried,” Abramson tells me. “I should say it went right off me, but I’m just being honest. I did cry. But by the next morning, I wasn’t completely preoccupied by it anymore. I had my cry and that was that.”

For Abramson to admit she cried is bold. She was lucky that her brief show of emotion wasn’t in front of a crew of cameras, as was the case for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Her reaction, in the privacy of her own home, to an article that amounted to a personal attack is more than appropriate. And her admitting some tears after the accusation that she was an ineffective leader was a minor point in an article that otherwise examined Abramson’s leadership style from a holistic point of view.

But you can trust that the public won’t let an example of a woman in the position of power shedding some tears go without mention. Dr. Kim Elsbach of the University of California has studied the repercussions of crying in the workplace, and found that “The worst offenses… are crying in a public meeting or because of work stress, like a looming deadline or coworker disagreement, because it is considered disruptive and weak. Crying in a private performance evaluation is also considered unprofessional and often manipulative.” New York Magazine in particular has ran with the Jill Abramson Cries and It’s News story:

Their blip of The Daily Beast‘s article read, “New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson is not going to pretend she doesn’t feel feelings, if only for a moment.” Another highlight of the profile? An anecdote of Abramson curtly informing a maintenance worker to wait for her to finish her interview with The Daily Beast before carrying away tables and chairs for an event. “It’s a balancing act, and she appears to be pulling it off,” finished the NYMag piece.

A balancing act between what? Being a bitch on one hand and a sensitive woman on the other? The only thing worse than The Bitchy Corporate Woman trope is The Bitchy Corporate Woman Also Cries trope. From The Daily Beast profile, it’s clear that Abramson falls into neither. She’s an effective editor with certain aggressive personality traits necessary to be at the helm of one of the world’s most respected news sources. She led her staff through layoffs, losing an acclaimed correspondent, and four Pulitzer prizes. End of story.

Image via Getty.

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