NYT executive editor Dean Baquet: "I have an obligation to diversify the staff"

The Times is implementing some serious changes in response to Alessandra Stanley's tone-deaf piece on Shonda Rhimes

Published September 24, 2014 7:52PM (EDT)

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Five days after the New York Times published Alessandra Stanley's tone-deaf and racially insensitive article about Shonda Rhimes, the paper is still answering to offended readers, examining its internal editorial processes and owning up to its lack of racial diversity in what public editor Margaret Sullivan contends is one of the most hotly debated pieces in her more than two years as public editor. Now, the Times's executive editor, notably also the paper's first black executive editor and the only person of color on the news-side masthead, has weighed in.

That a piece like this could breeze by multiple editors without raising any alarms highlights a real lack of awareness about race -- a serious problem for the nation's leading and must trusted media outlet. Baquet told Sullivan that "we need to work on" increasing diversity in the newsroom:

Mr. Baquet told me that he sees a problem with diversity in some areas of the newsroom, including among the 20 cultural critics, where there are only two persons of color — the chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, and a TV critic, Mike Hale — and no black critics.

“I would criticize us for that,” Mr. Baquet said. “I would love to diversify that area,” as well as others. He noted that The Times has had black critics in the past, specifically mentioning Margo Jefferson, but now, he said, “it’s an issue and we need to work on it.”

While the Times faces significant financial constraints, Baquet said, "I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I have an obligation to diversify the staff and I will figure out a way.”

Additionally, the Newspaper Guild, a union that represents many journalists at the Times, is "conducting a top-to-bottom survey of newsroom diversity" in response to the incident according to Sullivan. She added, "and separately, Times management includes a senior editor whose duties include diversity and training efforts."

The Times is trying to get it right and to do better, but the key word here is "trying": "This is far from the first time racial and other stereotypes have cropped up at The Times," Sullivan noted. "I’ve written about it before, and am very likely to do so again."

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alessandra Stanley Dean Baquet Diversity New York Times Race Racial Stereotypes Shonda Rhimes