America’s most prominent newspaper has acknowledged its newsroom is a “difficult environment” for employees of color, many of whom face more challenges in the workplace than their white peers.
On Wednesday, The New York Times released the results of an internal review of its newsroom diversity, the product of months of staff interviews. In the lengthy report, the paper’s top leaders relayed how many nonwhite staff described “unsettling and sometimes painful day-to-day workplace experiences.”
“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,” read the report, which was put together by the Times’ content studio president Amber Guild, deputy managing editor Carolyn Ryan, and senior vice president Anand Venkatesan. The trio was selected to lead the commissioned study because they are “respected truth tellers” who will “not pull any punches,” the paper’s top bosses wrote in a note atop the study.
Among its many findings, the report concluded that “our Black and Latino colleagues face the largest and most pervasive challenges” in the newsroom, and that “Black and Latino people are notably underrepresented in leadership.” Furthermore, the authors said, Black staffers in non-managerial roles have departed the Times at a higher rate than their white colleagues; and Black staffers have rated their experiences working for the paper lower than their peers.
Elsewhere, the report found that many Asian Times staffers described being confused for other Asian colleagues by their co-workers.
Times leaders said the paper has made strides in diversifying the actual makeup of the company and its leadership. Fifty-two percent of staff are women, an increase from 45 percent in 2015, the study revealed; and 34 percent of Times staffers are people of color, as opposed to just 27 percent six years ago.
But over the past year, racial issues have been at the center of numerous editorial and workplace debates at the Times—many of which have spilled out into public view.
Last year, numerous staffers of color spoke out against the paper’s decision to publish an op-ed piece from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), which argued for the deployment of troops to quell unrest and protests against police brutality following the police killing of George Floyd. Earlier this month, the newsroom was also sharply divided following the departure of star health and science reporter Donald McNeil after The Daily Beast reported that high-schoolers who accompanied him on a Times-sponsored trip to Peru in 2019 alleged that he made racist and offensive remarks, including saying the “n-word.”
While not explicitly acknowledged in Wednesday’s report, the paper alluded to the recent complaints and scandals that have been aired in public.
Times leaders committed to reviewing complaints that the paper cultivated a culture that held “star” reporters to different standards than other rank-and-file staff, and will conduct a separate inquiry into “our procedures for investigating employee behavioral issues, and for determining the appropriate discipline.”
Wednesday’s report further said that the paper would “formalize an ongoing employee group to advise leadership on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” and strive to “set clear expectations for norms and behaviors for all employees.” Beyond that, leaders said that over the next five years, the company aims to increase the representation of Black and Latino leaders by 50 percent.
“For decades, many people have avoided acknowledging the things that shape who we are—starting with race, but including gender, socioeconomic background, ideology, religion and more—in the workplace,” the study’s authors wrote. “That must change—we cannot pretend that these differences don’t exist.”
The largely critical report received a full endorsement from the paper’s top executives.
“Our culture has long powered the world’s finest journalism operation, but one of the company’s defining qualities has been an insistence on looking hard at ourselves and finding ways to do better,” read a note that accompanied the study, signed by the paper’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger, chief executive Meredith Kopit Levien and executive editor Dean Baquet. “We believe that the changes in this plan will make our journalism, our business and our company stronger. We also believe it will make The Times a better place to work, for all of us.”