WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. >> In her first public appearance since her dismissal from The New York Times, former executive editor Jill Abramson compared herself to a new college graduate: “scared but also a little excited.”
“What’s next for me? I don’t know. So I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you,” Abramson told the Class of 2014 at Wake Forest University’s graduation ceremony Monday morning. The audience replied with laughter and applause.
The Times announced last week that Abramson was being replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has denied reports that Abramson’s dismissal had to do with complaints over unequal pay or the company’s treatment of women. Instead, he cited Abramson’s newsroom management style.
In her speech, Abramson talked briefly about her time at the helm of The New York Times but did not directly address her dismissal. She said that she didn’t want the “media circus” following her to take attention away from the graduates.
“It was the honor of my life to lead the newsroom,” she said, citing the risks Times journalists take to report the news.
“Sure, losing a job you love hurts, but the work I revere — journalism that holds powerful institutions and people accountable — is what makes our democracy so resilient. This is the work I will remain very much a part of.”
Abramson said students had asked her whether she’d remove her tattoo of The Times’ ‘T.’
“Not a chance!” she said.
Abramson also invoked the memory of her father, who said it meant more to him that she and her siblings dealt with their setbacks than their success. She encouraged graduates to show people what they’re made of when they feel the sting of losses.