The New York Times’ reporting at the World Economic Forum’s swanky summit for billionaires in Davos has devolved into a “corrupt circle jerk,” according to the Gray Lady’s former executive editor, Jill Abramson.

Abramson, who served as the Times’ top editor from 2011 until she was ousted in 2014, slammed the paper in an email to Semafor co-founder Ben Smith. The scathing rebuke was published in Semafor’s daily post from the Davos conference.

“I noticed (after I was gone), much more ‘news’ coverage in the Times of Davos, quoting the attendees and speakers at those endless panels,” Abramson said in her email. “Of course, the coverage was a sweetener to flatter the CEOs by seeing their names in the NYT so that they would then speak at high-dollar NYT conferences and — of course — get phony news stories from the conferences into the paper.”

“It was — and is‚ a corrupt circle-jerk,” Abramson added.

Abramson said that she “had an allergy” to sending New York Times reporters to Davos during her tenure as the paper’s top editor. She noted that her predecessor as executive editor, Joseph Lelyveld, had “wanted to ban reporters” from the event entirely.

Jill Abramson
Jill Abramson was the NYTimes’ executive editor from 2011 to 2014.
Getty Images

The New York Times did not immediately return a request for comment on Abramson’s remarks.

The annual conference has garnered a reputation as a gathering spot and networking extravaganza for the world’s elites in business, politics and media. In recent years, attendees have drawn scrutiny for pushing progressive politics that, critics say, are at odds with their actions.

This year, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger was a participant in a Davos panel on “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation” that was hosted by controversial ex-CNN anchor Brian Stelter.

On Thursday, the Times’ “Dealbook” business blog posted a story headlined “Why Some Executives Wish E.S.G. ‘Just Goes Away’” — reporting on an energy executive’s frustration with environmental guidelines being imposed by big investment firms.

New York Times HQ
The New York Times hosts its own conferences each year.
Christopher Sadowski

Abramson did not point to a specific story or piece of New York Times coverage that had triggered her ire.

The Times’ website displays an entire page dedicated to its coverage of the World Economic Forum.

Recent publications include articles on speakers at the event, such as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and director Oliver Stone, as well as pieces entitled “Davos confronts a New World Order” and “Even with the crowds, Davos is a winter haven.”

The World Economic Forum in Davos kicked off this week.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A missive from the DealBook business newsletter published Tuesday mentioned several high-profile CEOs in attendance, including Amazon’s Andy Jassy and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon.

The New York Times is known for hosting its own conferences featuring top figures across various industries. In November, the paper’s “DealBook” summit included a notable appearance by disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who used the platform for assert his innocence from allegations that he defrauded his firm’s customers.

Abramson said she had an “allergy” to sending reporters to cover Davos during her tenure.

Abramson had a contentious exit from the New York Times in 2014, with critics accusing the paper’s top leaders of sexism.   

At the time, Sulzberger denied in a statement that sexism was at play and said Abramson was fired as executive editor because “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.”


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Tyler Cowan