Ousted New York Times editor Jill Abramson talked openly of her firing from the newspaper to laughter and applause today in her commencement address to Wake Forest University’s class of 2014.
“What’s next for me? I don’t know, so I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you,” Abramson told the graduates during her speech today. She admitted that she was “a little scared, but also excited.”
Abramson told the grads that she had already been asked by a student whether she would get the Times’ “T” logo tattoo removed from her back.
“Not a chance,” she said to applause.
“It was the honor of my life to lead the newsroom,” she added.
Abramson did not go into details about her firing but alluded to other women in media and history who had fought against discrimination, including Katherine Graham of the Washington Post publisher when the paper broke the Watergate scandal. She also cited Anita Hill, who came under withering scrutiny when she accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. She said that Hill sent her a message after her firing that she “was proud of me,” Abramson said.
She said that both women “faced discrimination in a much tougher more male dominated newspaper industry.”
Al Hunt, a Bloomberg View columnist who introduced her, alluded to published reports that Abramson was too “pushy” on the job when he said, “Pushy is what makes a great editor.”
“Now I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped,” Abramson said to laughter.” Or anyone who has not gotten a job you wanted or received a horrible rejection letter from grad school. You know the sting of losing, and when that happens, you show what you are made of,” she said.
The students who were Tweeting throughout the event reacted with a mixture of enthusiasm and snark.
“Pushy.” Drink. #wfugrad
— Erin Ruberry (@erinruberry) May 19, 2014
— Lauren Hiznay (@hiznaynay) May 19, 2014
— Leann W (@ldubyah) May 19, 2014
— Amy Rebecca (@AmyRCrismond) May 19, 2014