Bone women's fight in a male-dominated industry

Merchants of Truth – The Business of News and the Fight for Facts Author
Forfatter: Jill Abramson
Forlag: Simon & Schuster (USA)
DISCRIMINATION: Jill Abramson gives the unmasked truth about how female journalists are subjected to sexism in some of America's largest newspaper houses.


Merchants of Truth, written by Jill Abramson (b. 1954) – the first female editor in chief of The New York Times during the period 2011 to 2014, serves as a kind of biography of two of the largest newspapers in the United States, The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as the two new media companies Vice and BuzzFeed. The book has a length of 544 pages and appears as a cross between a memoir, a grave journalistic work, a report and sometimes a lexicon that presents the reader with large amounts of information. The release came as a result of Abramson's rage after she was fired from The New York Times by its publisher, Arthur Sulzberger. Since 2016, she has worked as a political columnist for The Guardian.

I Merchants of Truth Abramson takes us on the inside of American journalism through 13 different chapters: three about each of the largest news media in the United States, and one about Facebook. The book has no specific message, but it gives us a broad insight into male-dominated American journalism so that we readers can conclude. It is worth mentioning that it is highly colored by Abramson's strong emotional reaction to the dismissal, especially in the excerpts in which she describes the sexist attitudes of male colleagues towards women in the industry.

Obviously, getting her a lawyer makes her unpopular in the male-dominated team of colleagues.

For "ongoing"

In the spring of 2014, Arthur Sulzberger presents an "Innovation Report" – an internal report on digital innovation in The New York Times – for Abramson. She turns on all the plugs, partly because in the report she is not credited for the new website solution she designed for the newspaper in 2012. In May 2014, Abramson Guardian US editor Janine Gibson offers the position of web editor. It appears in the press that she is wondering about her editor, Dean Baquet, about Gibson's hiring. This should be why she is dismissed and Baquet assumes her position as chief editor. However, according to Abramson's book, this is wrong; she provides Baquet with accurate information about Gibson's employment. Several weeks before she is dismissed, she also hires a lawyer, since compared to her male predecessors, she feels discredited as chief editor (especially after the innovation report). Obviously, getting her a lawyer makes her unpopular in the male-dominated team of colleagues.

The reasons Abramson has to leave are, according to Sulzberger, "arbitrary decision-making, lack of consultation and cooperation with colleagues, inadequate communication and poor treatment of employees". After the dismissal, she quickly becomes a symbol for all women who have been laid off or have been told that they are "on-going" and she is receiving broad support from female industry colleagues. Former chief editor of The Washington Post, Susan Glasser, writes an essay titled "Editing While Female," which reveals the same sexism that led her to resign from her position in 2008.

New digital competitors

The book starts with the digital entertainment medium BuzzFeed and the celebrated chief editor Jonah Peretti, who has managed to build an empire of viral news on the border of the perverse. The very first BuzzFeed posts include the top seven links about gay penguins and fifteen links to animal pornography. As long as readers click on the posts, Peretti is pleased: "Let's fuck news in its naughty ass."

NY Times cover

The Internet and digital media are now starting to outperform the newspapers, and with Facebook's "news stream" in 2007, everything is falling apart for The New York Times og The Washington Post. Facebook, which first acts as a personal and social network for young people, is gradually becoming an all-encompassing and worldwide technological media giant. As a new source of news, Facebook is therefore a huge threat to the news media. The digital revolution is booming.

Mark Zuckerberg's first external investor, philosophy student Peter Thiel, gave him an insight into the philosopher René Girard's (1923 – 2015) theory of "mimetic desire". This theory eventually constitutes Facebook's basic philosophy: "Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and who turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires. ”

The digital revolution with social media such as Facebook and Twitter defines our news image. "Fake News," popularized by Donald Trump, becomes a global phenomenon during the 2016 election campaign. The New York Times and The Washington Post appeal to a crowd of anti-Trump readers, which causes the US president to tweet about journalists as "enemies of the people". The press gets both good and bad attention. In the spring of 2018, both newspapers receive the Pulitzer Prize for their Trump coverage.


The book is most interesting in the revelations about sexism in the media industry. But these parts of the book are relatively short, and I wish Abramson put more emphasis on this topic. She reveals sexual harassment in Vice, where founder and chief editor Shane Smith, among other things, is unfaithful to the wife with her assistants. She tells that editor-in-chief Katharine Weymouth of The Washington Post in the period 2008 to 2014 is subject to sexism; she is constantly underestimated and rejected by her older male colleagues on gender politics. Abramson writes about an incident where Weymouth is wearing an outfit with a slightly oversized ring during a lecture she holds, where her male colleagues later talk about how "slutty" her outfit is.

Would Abramson still be chief editor if she were a man?

Jill Abramson

As I collapse the book after reading the last page, there is one question I cannot help but ask myself: Would Abramson still be the chief editor if she were a man? The impression after reading about the sexual harassment that her male colleagues have exposed her to is that they slip away smoothly, but if women make mistakes, it will have major consequences instead.

Abramson reveals that after having to leave her post in The New York Times, she found out that Dean Baquet had once written in an email to a reporter in another media house (during her time as editor-in-chief): "I hope your If he had been a woman, he would most likely have been fired after such a statement, but Baquet appears to be safe in the position Abramson would still have today. Merchants of Truth shows us how difficult it is to be a woman with a top position in a male-dominated industry – or the world.

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