Posted on December 19, 2016

Preaching the Gospel of Diversity, but Not Following It

Liz Spayd, New York Times, December 17, 2016

Only two of the 20-plus reporters who covered the presidential campaign for The New York Times were black. None were Latino or Asian. That’s less diversity than you’ll find in Donald Trump’s cabinet thus far. Of The Times’s newly named White House team, all six are white, as is most everyone in the Washington bureau.

Traveling to other departments, Metro has only three Latinos among its 42 reporters, in a city with the second largest Hispanic population in the country. Sports has one Asian man, two Hispanics and no African-Americans among its 21 reporters, yet blacks are plentiful among the teams they cover and the audience they serve. In the Styles section, every writer is white, while American culture is anything but.

The executive editor, Dean Baquet, is African-American. The other editors on his masthead are white. The staff with the most diversity? The news assistants, who mostly do administrative jobs and get paid the least.

The Times can be relentless in questioning the diversity at other institutions; it has written about the white ranks of the technology sectorpublic schoolspolice departmentsOscar nomineeslaw firmslegislatures, the major leagues and the Ivy League. Fixing its own problems comes less easily.


Given The Times’s ambitions across global cultures and languages, it would seem that instead of being a lagger, it would insist on being a leader — and make that an explicit goal. I see no sign that this is happening. Nor do I get the impression from many journalists of color I spoke with that they believe progress is on the horizon.


I can tell diversity isn’t a priority here by looking at what is. Think digital transition or global expansion or subscriber growth or visual innovation. Those are mandates that really power up the engines. Diversity is not at that level, at least yet.

This issue has challenged most every newsroom manager, myself included. The newsroom I came from, The Washington Post, is quite diverse, but its leadership is heavily white and male. At The Times, on the other hand, people of color seem shut out of all sorts of coveted jobs: the top digital strategists, the top managers, the precious ranks of cultural critics, the White House press corps, the opinion columnists, the national politics jobs — all are overwhelmingly white.

It is possible to change this. But The Times will need more humility, introspection and openness than has been its habit in the past.

Note: This column explores The Times’s diversity crisis, primarily through race. Future columns will address the struggles to fix this issue, news coverage, the widening gender gap, and the limited geographic, religious and ideological diversity. Stay tuned.

Correction: December 17, 2016 

An earlier version of this column misstated the number of Hispanic sports reporters. There are two, not one.