A new internal review by the New York Times revealed the renowned news outlet has work to do in creating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for people of varying ethnic backgrounds, especially Black and Latino staff members.
“Our current culture and systems are not enabling our workforce to thrive and do its best work,” read the report in part. Initially commissioned during racial justice protests last year, the internal review found the Times’ newsroom “is a tough environment for many employees across backgrounds.”
The Times’ internal review also found that while the outlet has increased diversity in its newsroom, there is much more to be done including making sure people have the space to contribute to their fullest potential.
Black staff, particularly Black women, scored the company low in all categories compared to other employees. Black non-leadership staff also had a higher turnover rate than white staff.
“While The Times has a more diverse workforce than the broader industry, we are not immune from the effects: coverage that remains rooted in white perspectives, from characterizations and discussions of race to notions of what’s newsworthy,” acknowledged the report’s authors.
One example of a white perspective dictating newsworthiness is an op-ed from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. Last June, the Times ran an op-ed Cotton authored advocating violence against Black organizers and communities that clearly had not been vetted let alone edited. Cotton argued that the former president should send in the U.S. military to combat uprisings happening across the country.
The editorial page editor, James Bennet, defended the decision to run Cotton’s op-ed, claiming that publishing it was to provide the required public scrutiny and debate. Several Black reporters and contributors expressed outrage at the outlet for allowing such a column to be published. Some even suggested the carelessness could cause members of the staff harm.
Ultimately, the Times acknowledged the op-ed did not meet the paper’s standards. It turns out Bennet had not even read the piece he defended before it was published. Bennet subsequently resigned.
Unrelated to the Times’ coverage but indicative of its culture, top health reporter Donald McNeil recently resigned after leadership first defended his repeated use of the N-word and downplaying white supremacy on a company-funded trip with high school students before reversing course and giving him a slap on the wrist.
That is to speak nothing of the sympathetic coverage the Times has given Donald Trump and evidence of a lack of diversity when the paper embarrassingly confused actress Angela Bassett for Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Building better news and culture is the aim of the New York Times, according to its internal analysis. The Times expressed five commitments to improving culture and coverage, including expanding the fellowship program, creating more development opportunities for editors and adopting a new system for soliciting story feedback.
Part of the culture shift is the recognition that diversity is not a silver bullet. Time will tell how this renewed commitment to diversity in culture and coverage will manifest itself in the coming months.
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