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The importance of speaking up: 150 New York Times’ staffers against their leadership

More than 150 New York Times staffers, in an open letter to the paper’s executive leadership, criticized their response to complaints from parents that the journalist Donald McNeil Jr had used racist language while on a company-sponsored student trip, and for the handling of the scandal once those complaints were first reported: ”Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”

What does this prove?

That words are not enough. That intentions are not enough. And that every single person, every single journalist and every single publication should be constantly vigilant for correcting and not fostering racism, sexism, biases.

Because the ugly truth is that there are biases in every one of us: unconscious or conscious, bigger or smaller, and depending on our position and level of influence, we are responsible for passing them on, for giving the floor to them: the offenders are not monsters with big horns and sharp teeth that we can easily spot from far away; the offenders are each and every one of us to a bigger or small extend – and we have to aware of that.

We have to be willing to accept people to correct us when we make mistakes ourselves and we have to be willing to accept that our friends, our colleagues, our role models or people whose talent we admire can also be guilty of racism, of sexism, of misconduct… and be ready to speak up even if the dirt is in our own house.

So, this is why I love this story: not because it was news that The New York Times leadership was soft on one of their stars, but because their own staffers reacted to it and that act of speaking up is what will change something!

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