The power of pushy

The appointment today of Anne Marie Owens as editor of National Post, the first woman ever to head a Canadian national newspaper, raises the question: how will a member of the fair sex fare in the role? It’s hard not to think about the recent firing of Jill Abramson as editor of the New York Times. Media specialist Ken Auletta, who wrote more knowledgeably about the dismissal than anyone else, said one of the reasons was because Abramson was seen by management as “pushy.” 

Pushy. What a word. It’s only used about a woman, never a man. Owens, currently deputy editor at Maclean’s, doesn’t tweet very often (only three times this calendar year) so it’s interesting that she recently tweeted a definition of pushy by saying, “People expect women to be communal leaders and men to be autocratic ones.”

Owens was at National Post in 1998 when the paper launched. So was I. I have no recollection of her which probably says more about me than her. It was a big newsroom; I was in the business ghetto. But I do know this. Founding editor Ken Whyte was not a communal leader. Every Friday afternoon he’d throw out most of the Saturday features that journalists had been working on all week and order up a batch of new pieces. His editorial judgement was always right. 

Whether she likes the idea of being pushy or not, Owens cannot be communal. The role demands other talents. In this case, the requirements include being pushy. Even if it gets her fired. 

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