New York Times staff survey shows half don’t think ‘free exchange of views’ are welcome

New York Times staff survey shows half don’t think ‘free exchange of views’ are welcome

Even before controversies in recent weeks over New York Times management’s handling of free speech issues, according to a New York Post report published Saturday, only 51% of Times employees agreed in a company survey that “there is a free exchange of views in this company; people are not afraid to say what they really think.”

Crucial Quote

“We saw steep declines in answers about leaders and colleagues accepting and embracing differences in race, gender, identity and religion. Responses from Black and Latino colleagues declined at an even greater rate,” the Times internal assessment reportedly advised.

Key Background

News of the poll comes at a time when recent reports describe Times staff as “largely divided” over recent staff controversies. 

In late January, The Daily Beast reported that high-profile health reporter Donald McNeil Jr. had used a racial slur during a Times-sponsored trip to Peru for high school students in 2019.  

The Times soon acknowledged that McNeil “had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language” and had punished him, but decided not to fire him. 

In early February, more than 150 Times staffers “outraged” because they felt managers didn’t take the incident seriously enough, sent a letter to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, and Times executives reportedly responded by promising to “examine the way we manage behavioural problems among members of the staff.” 

Last week, McNeil, who had anchored the paper’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and had been with the paper for 45 years, abruptly announced he was leaving, and it was largely assumed he was pushed out. 

“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” the Times wrote in an email—which they later walked back during a staff meeting.

Also last week, Andy Mills, a co-creator of the Daily podcast and a producer and co-host of the Caliphate podcast (which the Times was forced to partially retract), departed from the company in the wake of past accusations of inappropriate behaviour toward female colleagues.  

In mid-January, Lauren Wolfe, an editor working at the Times, tweeted that she had “chills” watching President-elect Joe Biden’s plane land outside Washington, DC. She was fired less than two days later. 

Big Number

74%. That’s the percentage of Times employees that said leaders and colleagues accepted and embraced differences in ethnicity/race, which, according to the Post, represented a 10% decline from the results of the same question in 2019.

Tangent

Last June, there was a “staff-wide uproar” after the Times published an op-ed written by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in which he called for the deployment of troops to quell Black Lives Matter protests related to George Floyd. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the paper’s 1619 project, said she was “deeply ashamed” the paper published the op-ed. 

In response, after initially defending the post, the Times released a statement asserting that “a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards.” 

Opinion editor James Bennet, who defended the post initially, saying it was important to hear from all points of view, exited the Times later that month.  

Over the years, Media outlets have gained a level of trust and accountability. Unfortunately, we have seen time after time that this image has been abused and they have become partisan outlets for political and strategical gains. I believe that the first job of a journalist is to deliver the news impartially and outlets have to distinguish between news broadcasting and opinion delivery.

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