The New York Times is admitting its own workplace issues, particularly around the treatment of Black and Latino employees, in a report released Wednesday. Included with the analysis is a four-point plan to improve conditions that the report’s authors say will require “commitment from company leadership” as well as employees.
In a note signed by Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien and Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Times leadership said the result of an eight-month investigation of its own workplace “calls for us to transform our culture.” They likened that plan to the company’s shifts to being digital-first and subscription-first — efforts that have proven to be quite successful.
Three Times senior leaders — Amber Guild, Carolyn Ryan and Anand Venkatesan — were tasked with leading the review of the company’s culture. Ryan, a deputy managing editor who has worked at The Times since 2007, told CNN Business that the effort began last summer with the goal of not looking at diversity “in terms of numbers” but rather “in more depth at our culture.”
This decision came amid the nationwide movement for racial equality following the killings of Black Americans including George Floyd. Inside the Times, staffers staged their own revolt over the paper’s decision to publish an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that called for the US military to be deployed amid the Black Lives Matters protests. Several Times staffers tweeted screenshots of the headline on Cotton’s piece, “Send In the Troops,” with the words: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
Earlier this month, another controversy stirred inside The Times after the company parted ways with two employees, both of whom were previously accused in separate instances of behaving unprofessionally. Staffers were concerned over leadership’s handling of the departures.
The report does not mention employees by name, but it does allude to a “star” culture, with employees questioning “The Times’s commitment to fairly enforcing its policies and rules — and whether they are clear and rigorous enough in the first place.”
Wednesday’s report, commissioned shortly after the Cotton controversy, paints a grim picture of The Times’ workplace culture. People of color were not only underrepresented at The Times but said they were treated unfairly and disrespected.
“We heard from many Asian-American women, for example, about feeling invisible and unseen — to the point of being regularly called by the name of a different colleague of the same race, something other people of color described as well,” the report said.
The review also concluded that “Black colleagues who are not in leadership positions leave the company at a higher rate than white colleagues”
These anecdotes were the result of conversations with more than 400 employees across departments who participated in focus groups with independent consultants.
“Over the past several years, we have hired hundreds of journalists of color and brought people into the newsroom broadly from a range of backgrounds,” Ryan told CNN Business. “But our culture hasn’t shifted and our culture hasn’t evolved to really make sure that we are creating the conditions where all of our employees can do their best work.”
The report listed several statistics that do reflect some progress The Times has made in diversifying its staff: Since 2015, the percentage of people of color increased from 27% to 34%; people of color in leadership increased from 17% to 23%; the percentage of women increased from 45% to 52%; the percentage of women in leadership increased from 40% to 52%. The report said 48% of new hires to The Times last year were people of color.
Among the planned actions listed in the report is a goal to increase the percentage of Black and Latino staffers in leadership by 50% by the end of 2025. The Times plans to create a diversity, equity and inclusion office in human resources and hire more staffers dedicated to it. Starting in 2022, diversity, equity and inclusion requirements will also be factored into the assessment of and compensation for managers.
Beyond its own staff, The Times plans to look at diversity, equity and inclusion in its business relationships. The report says the company will try to work with more business partners with diverse ownership.
Ryan told CNN Business that her company is at “an inflection point.” She said that many aspects of the business, such as its “commitment to reporting without fear or favor,” will not change but many other ones must.
“This is a big step,” Ryan said. “But it’s really the beginning of changing our culture, and that will go on for years and years.”