Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: New York Times Employee Recommendation Memo

We represent employees from every facet of The New York Times, from editorial to business, from specific departments to ERGs. We come to this meeting with a mandate for sustained change and urgency to engage in a very necessary and long-overdue discussion about how to improve the working experience of Black, Indigenous and people of color at the Times, BIPOC@NYT.

The discussion that began with the Tom Cotton Op-Ed and has continued through town halls, Sslack and all the other ways in which, as Times employees, we communicate with each other, makes clear that we are all invested in the future of the company. We want the news, culture, and experiences that we support on the business side and report about on the editorial side, to meaningfully serve the communities we serve and the audiences who read and subscribe to the results of our work.

We view this meeting today as the first step in a deeper examination and rebuilding of corporate practices that often discount the voices of BIPOC at the Times. Diversity, inclusion and equity is not a static goal. It is an ongoing commitment that must be implemented in every facet of the company.

Toward that goal, we have developed the following recommendations. We look forward to working together to not only bring these to fruition but to also continually assess our efforts and build on them. We have the ability to turn this moment into one of ongoing transformation and leadership, both within and beyond our own walls.

EQUITY & INCLUSION

The Times must become more diverse. This is not lip service, corporate good citizenship or a favor to our BIPOC colleagues. It is core to what the Times must do to broaden its audience and improve how it covers the world. Diversity is how our coverage becomes more comprehensive, more nuanced, more variegated, more vibrant. Advances on the business side are equally crucial. 

The leadership of the New York Times has said this too. We agree. 

But this transformation does not happen — it has not happened — with efforts at the edges. It requires a sustained commitment from the publisher on down. 

It also requires more than listening. For these changes to take hold and be effective, they must come from collaboration across all people at the New York Times, not the pronouncements of consultants and management committees. 

To drive the improvements, we recommend the following: 

A. The creation of a joint labor-management diversity council​,​ including management and employee representatives from editorial, business, technology, talent & inclusion and other non-editorial departments. The Joint Council, which should have a committed budget (outside of current Employee Resource Group programming) for programs, workshops and career placement support, would: 

  • Assess and oversee efforts to have company diversity reflect NYC demographics in hiring, retention and promotions.
  • Critically examine, flag and correct compensation discrepancies looking for trends and markers that may indicate unconscious bias.
  • Regularly review policy and standards for cultural
  • Oversee mandatory unconscious bias training (for hiring and for editorial sensitivity reading).
  • Enact recommendations across all parts of the company from editorial, business, tech and other non-editorial parts of the organization.

B. The creation of a masthead position to advocate diversity​ in news coverage and in the assignment and promotion of newsroom staff. In the past, people who have been bestowed the task of “diversity” were not handed the authority or mandate to drive through lasting and significant change. The past initiatives faded out.

C. The addition to the business side a C-level diversity position​ dedicated to identifying internal candidates for promotion, retention, and development in business including technology, data and other non-editorial teams. 

D. A mandate from the publisher​ that diversity and inclusion is part of everyone’s job. This would help encourage BIPOC employees ​to speak up about concerns without fear of retaliation. 

E. Incorporation of a statement about the centrality of diversity, inclusion and equity​ in The Times’s values statement, in addition to the current language on collaboration: https://www.nytco.com/company/mission-and-values/​.

“It takes creativity and expertise from people in every part and every level of the company and from diverse, varied backgrounds and communities to fulfill our mission. We are at our best when we work together and support each other taking the time and care to intentionally incorporate underrepresented voices and enact change together towards continued growth and improvement.”

ACCOUNTABILITY

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, journalists say about politicians, government, companies, organizations. Information provides accountability. We need to shine the light on ourselves too. The progress needs to be more than anecdotal. Numbers do not tell the whole story, but they provide a basis for the conversation of what has changed, what has not and what should be done next.

We recommend: 

A. Detailed metrics​ to track diversity at different job levels in individual departments.

B. An annual pay equity study​ conducted by the joint council. The methodology and results should be distributed to employees.

C. Twice-a-year reports on diversity progres​s​ to all employees. 

D. Quarterly meetings of the Joint Council​ to track implementation and progress.

E. Annual, company-wide collection and publication of diversity and gender data — including hiring, promotion and retention data — by department and title

  • Exit interviews should be conducted with departing employees to better understand retention issues. This data should be shared with the Joint Council to inform ongoing changes.

F. Department-specific hiring panels​ of managers and employees, representing diverse perspectives, to make candidate sourcing recommendations and provide meaningful input into hiring processes. The Joint Council will meet on a quarterly basis to assess the past quarter’s results. Responsibilities will include:

  • Adding and assessing an anonymous feedback channel for open positions for employees within a department to make recommendations or candidate suggestions.
  • Creating and maintaining guidelines for hiring managers and recruiters, providing more specific information concerning sources (organizations, schools and other groups) through which BIPOC may be recruited.

G. Interview metrics​ assessing the percentage of BIPOC candidates at each stage with a goal of reaching 50% within 2020. 

H. Bonuses for managers​ in hiring, retention, career development, and promotion of BIPOC in their respective departments.

EDITORIAL PROCESSES 

The people in the New York Times newsroom work extremely hard on an important shared mission. That is not questioned. Still, we are all human, and we all have blind spots. Just like other aspects of the newsgathering and editing process, processes help maintain the high standards of The Times.

To​ ​head off future issues, we recommend:

A. The adoption of ​Opinion recommendations​ for rebuilding Op-Ed. 

B. Immediate hiring of additional moderators​ on the Community team.

  • Commit to maintaining a specific level of staffing.
  • Flexible work schedules, additional time off and mental health support.

C. Hiring of more Black and more people of color to the Standards team​ for newsroom and Opinion. There should be a separate standards person for Opinion. 

D. Encouraging a broader range and diversity of sources​ for stories. 

E. Empowerment of the Print Hub​ to coordinate framing for stories for print. 

F. Planning of  sensitivity reads​ at the start of the editorial process, not at the end. Someone who is asked to spend more than 15 minutes performing this task should receive compensation, mirroring the existing policy for translation fees. 

G. Mandatory and regular cultural competency training​ for newsroom employees and leadership, so the burden of assigning, reporting, framing, writing, editing, promotion (etc.) coverage that does not inaccurately describe discrimination of any kind does not just fall on Black journalists, journalists of color, other members of historically discriminated groups, and their allies. Every newsroom employee should be proactive in improving coverage; not just “receptive” to hearing about issues, since that is passive (though we do want people to be receptive if addressed).

REBUILDING A NEW WORKPLACE CULTURE AT THE TIMES 

Junior members of the newsroom have often been told that they need to leave The Times to advance their careers. Given the carnage in local journalism, 1) this is often not a plausible career path in the 21st century and 2) we often pointlessly get rid of some really good people. There is usually greater diversity among younger staffers, and pushing them out is counter to the goal of a better rounded staff.

We recommend:

A. Setting a goal of hiring, retention and promotion​ for the New York Times workforce to reflect NYC demographics by 2025.  ​https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/newyorkcitynewyork

B. Establishing and expanding mentorship programs​ that support individual advancement and promotions for BIPOC employees, specifically news assistants seeking to move to advance to reporter and editor positions.