Diversity (Such As It Is) at The New York Times

December 27, 2016 6 min read

Liz Spayd, the public editor at The New York Times, has just given us a peek behind the curtain at the newspaper of record — and what we've stumbled onto is more than a little liberal hypocrisy.

For example, she tells us "Only two of the 20-plus reporters who covered the presidential campaign for The New York Times were black. None were Latino or Asian."

Among the 42 reporters who cover local news in New York, only three are Latino, despite the fact that New York has the second largest Hispanic population in the United States.

How about sports? In that department there's one Asian man, one Hispanic woman and no African-Americans, even though, as Spayd points out, "blacks are plentiful among the teams they cover and the audience they serve."

The executive editor of the Times is black but all the other top editors whose names adorn the masthead are white.

Let's just say it's probably not a good thing when the National Hockey League seems more diverse than a liberal newsroom.

But this isn't simply about numbers. It's also about a special kind of smugness. The liberal elite kind. And as the public editor tells us, the Times' less than sterling record on diversity hasn't stopped it from telling everyone else in the culture how to behave.

"The Times can be relentless in questioning the diversity at other institutions; it has written about the white ranks of the technology sector, public schools, police departments, Oscar nominees, law firms, legislatures, the major leagues and the Ivy League. Fixing its own problems comes less easily."

We owe thanks to Liz Spayd for her courage in taking us behind the curtain, a place civilians are not supposed to go. But now that she's aired all that dirty laundry, as a friend of mine suggests, she "should consider hiring a food and beverage taster before ingesting anything made for her at Times headquarters."

Yes, diversity matters in the newsroom. We don't want quotas based on race and ethnicity, but black reporters probably would have more access to black communities, for example, and likely would have a better — and a different — take on black cultural issues than a white guy who grew up in a tony white suburb before heading off to the Ivy League.

But there's another kind of diversity that also matters in the newsroom and arguably matters more than the skin-deep kind when it comes to covering news. It's diversity of opinions; ideological diversity. And there's precious little of that at the Times or in most American newsrooms. Spayd says she'll tackle that kind of diversity in a future column. I can't wait.

Years ago, I asked two very high-ranking TV news executives — both of whom were major proponents of diversity in their newsrooms — if they would voluntarily give up their jobs on the condition that they be replaced by a qualified minority or female executive.

I asked this question in two separate conversations at two different times in two difference cities. The two executives didn't even know each other. Yet both had the same answer — No!

They thought it was a terrible idea. After all, they told me, they had experience. They were right for the job. And while they were explaining, they looked at me as if I had two heads.

Or to put it another way, what they really were saying is: We love diversity — as long as we don't have to give up anything to achieve it.

Back at The New York Times, almost all the star columnists are white and liberal. So why doesn't the Times, for the sake of diversity, replace their white columnists with columnists "of color."

Why not at least ask these columnists — who presumably have benefited from the very white privilege they, like many of their fellow liberals, find so unfair —what they think of the idea of being replaced by journalists who aren't white, though I suspect we already know the answer to that one.

The Times may want to consider one more thing if the people who run the place ever get serious about hiring more minorities for their newsroom. Generally speaking, minority journalists, like minorities in general, tend to be more liberal than white people — and white journalists are pretty liberal to begin with.

So the more Hispanics and Asians and African Americans who join America's newsrooms, the more liberal those newsrooms would become.

One problem solved — another problem made worse.

Which brings us to an idea I came up with a while back: affirmative action for the smallest minority in the American newsroom — conservative journalists.

And the Times could look real hard and find black and Latino and Asian conservative journalists And — presto! — they'd be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak: more minorities and more conservatives.

I know, brilliant, right?

To find out more about Bernard Goldberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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