New York Times Editor Dean Baquet issued an unprecedented statement Friday about how his news organization handles issues about race and ethnicity. The statement was issued after The Times published a piece that unfairly reported on controversial remarks writer Gay Talese made about New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones in which he questioned how Hannah-Jones got a job at the Times.
Here’s Baquet’s statement:
“We published a story yesterday about controversial remarks made by the writer Gay Talese concerning female journalists at a conference at Boston University. The story also recounted an exchange between Talese and Nikole Hannah-Jones, a keynote speaker at the conference and a staff writer on our magazine, in which he questioned how she got her job at The Times. In attempting to defend his remarks, Talese was quoted in our story calling her “duplicitous.” Nikole was not given a chance to respond to that, nor was I. Here is what I would have said: I hired Nikole because she is one of the most accomplished and prominent journalists of her generation. She has made it her mission to write about some of the most pressing, intractable issues in American life, particularly racial inequality in education and the re-segregation of American schools. She is a unique combination of a reporter with investigative zeal, unfailing integrity and a writer’s eye for telling, human detail. One of my proudest moments as editor was when Nikole said “yes” and agreed to come to The Times.
Yesterday’s story was flawed and Nikole was treated unfairly. But this incident is larger than the exchange between her and Gay Talese. Too often, we are clumsy in handling issues of race and gender and this story was another unfortunate example. We have made strides in our coverage and culture, but the best solution is to continue building a more diverse, inclusive newsroom.”
Unfortunately Baquet doesn’t lay out a strategy for how he plans to fix this long-running problem at his news organization. But at least we now know he gets it.
Acknowledging there’s a problem is the first step to solving it.