Jill Abramson wasn't fired because she's a woman. But she might have been fired — at least in part — because she was systematically getting rid of male editors and replacing them with women.
There do not appear to be any sources for this assertion of Johnson's other than his observation of changes on the New York Times's masthead and his interpretation of the reporting that the last straw for Times owner Arthur Sulzberger was Abramson's attempt to hire Janine Gibson of The Guardian. Oh, and a comment Johnson got from a man named Mel Feit, who runs the National Center for Men, a men's rights group that operates out of Coram, New York.
"The New York Times has a point of view: 'Women are victims, we need to remedy that, we need to promote them preferentially,' " Mel Feit of the National Center for Men told me.
Intrigued by this theory (and by my new awareness of the existence of an entity called the "National Center for Men"), but left starving for detail by the brief quote, I decided to call up Mr. Feit and ask him to elaborate. We spoke briefly about his quote, which he told me he hadn't yet seen in context, himself.
He explained that the National Center for Men, these days, is not a "membership organization" but a "service organization." He says the organization is past its "heyday" in the mid-80s and 90s.
As to his views on Abramson, Feit told me he has not spoken to anyone at the Times himself, and that his quote was only given in reaction to Richard Johnson's own account of what had happened there. But he says he thinks that Abramson's hiring more women "colors their perception of news."
"I'm not an expert in journalism." he admits. But:
The reason I think it's a problem is I think newspapers in particular should mix it up. There really should be a diversity of values and opinions and ideas.
Asked if, as he was implying, hiring more women necessarily diminishes the number of viewpoints in the newsroom, Feit suddenly demurred. "I don't know the people who were hired," he said. "I don't know what was in her mind."
Gender politics are complicated. It becomes difficult to understand them if you don't mix it up, bring other points of view into the newsroom. You're never going to have someone with a men's rights point of view there, never been, never gonna be. So it becomes really difficult to reflect, and understand, and writer interestingly about ideas if you're not willing to explore other ideas and I think that's the problem at the Times.
He would want to look at the Times' hiring policies overall, he says. He would like to see any "affirmative action policy" at the Times include "diversity of opinion" in both women and men. And:
I would want to see who was being hired in really low-level positions, in maintenance positions and positions where people got injured. Cause if you look at what's happening in the society at large, we would see that the concept of affirmative action doesn't apply to all those positions that are really dangerous, dirty, deadly positions which are occupied mostly by men. And I would want to know if the Times had a real comprehensive policy about affirmative action in making sure those positions were filled more by women, and then I wouldn't object so much. But I suspect, and this is a guess, that affirmative action policies don't apply to areas where men are really in positions of danger.
To that end, he also told me,
I think there's a sexual caste system that's being developed. I think that women are increasingly occupying the glamorous intellectual jobs, men are occupying the jobs that are dirty and deadly and dangerous, and you have to look at statistics on workplace fatalities and injuries to know that.
He does offer a caveat:
I admit that there's an assumption that I'm making that hiring mostly women means you have a certain philosophy, I'm not sure about that, maybe she was hiring women who are very sympathetic to men, but it doesn't seem that way.
I asked what it meant to him to have a viewpoint "sympathetic to men," and he replied,
You're living in a city where 90% of the homeless are male. There are serious problems going on. You have a situation now where men are underrepresented in college, and graduate school, and medical school. There are some issues. If you see coverage of that in the Times, let me know, I'd like to read it, but I don't see it. I've never seen it.
Not only was the coverage absent, he said,
When they walk out the front door of the New York Times, wherever that is now, 43rd street, I'm guessing they don't see the homeless people, I don't think they even see it.
"I do think the Times covers homelessness sometimes, though," I found myself pointing out. But Feit is dissatisfied with what he felt was a lack of explicit commentary, he said. And he worried about it. Because if "men are no longer being trained to do the intellectual work of a society," he thinks it's an issue the Times should cover.