New York Times vows to boost leadership roles of black and Latino staff members by 50%

Donald McNeil Jr. resigned over allegations he used the N-word

The New York Times has released a report outlining changes it will make to create a ‘more diverse and inclusive newsroom’ after facing a series of controversies, including the resignation of Donald McNeil Jr. over allegations he used a racial slur.

In the report, the Times found examples of racism at the organization including Asian-American employees being confused for other coworkers.

The report authors called on the Times to create a ‘diversity, equity and inclusion office in Human Resources,’ hire recruiters dedicated to hiring people of color and other underrepresented groups, and expand diversity requirements for hiring.

Since 2015, the company has increased the amount of women and people of color it hires: with women making up 52 percent of employees and people of color making up 34 percent of employees. 

The release of the report comes more than two weeks after veteran news reporter Donald McNeil Jr. resigned over allegations he used the N-word during a 2019 trip with high school students.

Sophia Shepherd, a white Andover student who was on the Peru trip with McNeil where he used the N-word, claims he also told the group that racism was ‘over.’

Earlier this month, The New York Times killed a column by Bret Stephens that was critical of Baquet – who initially said ‘intent’ doesn’t matter after McNeil’s resignation.

Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn had said: ‘We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.’ 

‘If you’re wondering why it wasn’t in the paper, it’s because AG Sulzberger spiked it,’ Pulitzer-winning Stephens wrote to colleagues.

The Times had initially allowed McNeil Jr. to keep his job after complaints he used the racial slur during a company funded school trip to Peru in 2019.

Management decided not to fire him after an investigation because they believed he showed ‘poor judgment’ but did not use the words with ‘hateful or malicious’ intent.

But McNeil Jr. was forced out after 150 Times employees out of 4,500 signed a letter saying they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the paper’s handling of the incident. Out of those 4,500, only 1,600 are journalists.

Stephens had planned to question those comments by Baquet and Kahn in his column titled ‘Regardless of Intent,’ which was obtained and published by the New York Post

‘This is an argument about three words: ‘Regardless of intent.’ Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously,’ the conservative commentator wrote.

‘Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.’

Times Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury later told NBC it had been her decision to shelve the column after consultation with the publisher.

Kingsbury told Daily Beast she ‘did not feel that this piece rose to her high bar’.

Andy Mills, a producer on the retracted Pulitzer Prize-nominated Caliphate podcast, has also resigned from his role after detailing the untrue story of a man who claimed to be a fighter and executioner with the Islamic State in Syria.

The New York Times has released a woke' blueprint for the future of their newsroom after controversies

The New York Times has released a woke’ blueprint for the future of their newsroom after controversies

A week later, Executive Editor Dean Baquet tried ‘to douse a cultural inferno that has been consuming the Times newsroom’ during the company’s annual State of the Times address, as described by the Washington Post

‘Amid recent events, employees have pointed to a ‘star’ culture. They have questioned The Times’s commitment to fairly enforcing its policies and rules — and whether they are clear and rigorous enough in the first place,’ according to the Times’ new report.

The report notes that the paper’s executives have ‘committed to a review’ that is now underway of procedures ‘for investigating employee behavioral issues, and for determining the appropriate discipline.’

‘The goal of this work is to clarify for all employees what our procedures are, to assess whether they are rigorous enough and to determine how to make them more transparent,’ according to the report.

A note from Baquet, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien and publisher A.G. Sulzberger indicates that the report was commissioned eight months ago, seemingly after the death of George Floyd last May.

‘Eight months ago, against the backdrop of a societal reckoning around race, we commissioned a diverse group of senior leaders from across the company to help us examine how we were falling short within our own walls, and what it would take to change,’ the paper’s top brass wrote.

To lead the authoring of the report, the execs chose ‘respected truth tellers’: Amber Guild, president of T Brand Studio’s marketing solutions team; Carolyn Ryan, deputy managing editor of the paper; and ‎Anand Venatesan, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Head of Operations.

‘For many, this report is long overdue. For others, it will be a new and uncomfortable portrait of The Times. For all of us, it is a call to action,’ the report authors wrote.

Guild, Ryan and Venatesan held in-depth conversations with employees and analyzed workforce data to draw their conclusions, according to the report.

‘We have arrived at a stark conclusion: The Times is a difficult environment for many of our colleagues, from a wide range of backgrounds. Our current culture and systems are not enabling our workforce to thrive and do its best work,’ the report reads.

‘This is true across many types of difference: race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic background, ideological viewpoints and more. But it is particularly true for people of color.’

The report noted that Asian-American women at the company have been ‘regularly called by the name of a different colleague of the same race.’

Graphs included with The New York Times report show the demographic makeup of the company

Graphs included with The New York Times report show the demographic makeup of the company

According to the company, black and Latino people are ‘notably underrepresented’ in leadership and black employees who are not in leadership positions leave the company at a higher rate than white colleagues.

However, the report noted that the company has ‘made meaningful efforts’ to achieve greater diversity in recent years including requiring diverse candidate slates and interview panels for hiring.

Women now fill the majority of staff roles including leadership positions, according to the data.

Since 2015, the percentage of women at the company increased from 45 percent to 52 percent – and the percentage of women in leadership roles increased from 40 percent to 52 percent.

Last year, 48 percent of new hires were people of color – though the racial and ethnic makeup of the company remains predominantly white.

Sophia Shepherd, a white Andover student who was on the Peru trip with New York Times reporter Donald McNeil where he used the N-word, claims he also told the group that racism was 'over'

Sophia Shepherd, a white Andover student who was on the Peru trip with New York Times reporter Donald McNeil where he used the N-word, claims he also told the group that racism was ‘over’

The percentage of the workforce that is white fell from 73 percent to 63 percent since 2015 and the percentage of leadership that is white fell from 83 percent to 74 percent.

‘People of color — and particularly women of color — remain notably underrepresented in leadership. And the company’s focus has primarily been on building a more diverse staff, with less attention to building a more inclusive culture,’ the report noted.

The company hopes to increase the representation of Black and Latino employees in leadership roles by 50 percent over the next five years.

‘Some may question why we have chosen to set a goal for representation specifically for Black and Latino colleagues in leadership: The answer is that it’s where we have the biggest representation gaps,’ according to the outlet.

In order to do that, the newspaper said it needed to fundamentally change its culture, noting that until the 1990s it was an ‘unwelcoming place for gay and lesbian people.’

‘Our leaders made a choice to change that, and built a culture that instead embraced gay and lesbian colleagues,’ the report noted.

The New York Times will create a formal ongoing advisory group made of employees to ensure the company continues to hear from employees ‘from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives.’

‘Many employees also want more honest conversations about where they stand and more actionable feedback that can help them achieve their goals,’ according to the report.

Stories of bias incidents faced by Chinese Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as coverage of the 2020 election and its ‘signature work like the 1619 project’ have reportedly shown how greater diversity has impacted the paper’s news coverage, according to the report.

‘The newsroom team is using qualitative and quantitative data to analyze how people and communities of color are represented in our coverage, both as sources and as subjects,’ according to the outlet.  

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