New York Times culture not enabling workers to thrive, diversity report says

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The New York Times issued a sweeping diversity report and plan Wednesday that is needed to transform a culture that makes the paper an “unwelcoming place for many people,” according to its authors.

The review of employee issues surrounding race and diversity began eight months ago, amid a nationwide reckoning on race following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, according to an introductory note by Chairman and Publisher A. G. Sulzberger, President and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien and the Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

It also follows the recent departures of two senior journalists, audio producer Andy Mills and science reporter Donald McNeil.

The report was created by Amber Guild, president of the company’s T Brand Studios; Anand Venkatesan, a senior vice president, and Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor who oversees diversity issues and who is seen, according to Insider, as a possible replacement for Baquet, when he retires.

The nearly 7,000-word report excoriates the “difficult environment” at the Times especially as experienced by “people of color, many of whom described unsettling and sometimes painful day-to-day workplace experiences.”

Asian American women feel “invisible and unseen” the report stated, and are often referred to using the name of other Asian women.

However, Black and Latino Times employees have borne the worst of it, according to the report. They are underrepresented in leadership positions when compared to other races inside the company and in other companies across the U.S. Black employees, especially women, gave the Times the worst marks for fairness and inclusion in a survey conducted last year.

Even more revealing was the report’s condemnation of the everyday work culture at the Times, which has been known for raising the careers of its journalists to the national stage.

The report’s author summarized the barriers employees face in a list of five “cultural inhibitors” that have to be addressed,” they wrote, “to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive company.” 

Employees must follow a set of “complex, unwritten rules” to be successful and that success is often narrowly defined. In addition, vulnerability tends to be frowned upon and as a result, employees are reluctant to acknowledge mistakes and openly work on self-improvement. That, in turn, tends to discourage risk taking and innovation.

Individual intelligence is valued more than the contributions people make to their teams. Some in the company assume that by focusing on diversity the company is devaluing excellence, the report stated.

“‘You need two kinds of mentors at The Times,’” the report stated, in a highlighted quote of one employee’s assessment of the culture.“‘One for career growth, then another to navigate. I don’t know of another company that needs the second one quite so much.’”

The plan listed four broad goals to address the issues outlined in the report, each with a multi-item list of more specific plans and commitments. 

The first goal is transforming the paper’s culture “to create an environment where we all can do our best work. We will be explicit about how diversity, equity and inclusion tie to our mission and values.”

The second is to upgrade how the company leads and manages people by defining “clear expectations for leaders who manage people and for how they will be assessed.” As part of this goal, the paper set a target of increasing the number of Black and Latinos in management positions by 50 percent by 2025.

The company said it wants to improve workforce support and development and promised to establish a new office to track progress in this area.

Finally, the paper wants to ensure that its news coverage benefits from the diversity and inclusion in its newsroom.

“We will make our newsroom more diverse, our editorial practices more inclusive, and our news report one that provides a truer, richer and more textured portrayal of the world,” it wrote.


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