By Ellen McGirt
December 19, 2016

On Saturday, the New York Times published a column written by the public editor, Liz Spayd, that pulled no punches about the newspaper’s lack of ethnic diversity. It’s worth your time. “The newsroom’s blinding whiteness hit me when I walked in the door six months ago,” she wrote. “It’s hardly a new problem here, but it’s one that persists even as the country grows more diverse and the Times grows more global.”

In the past year, the Times has become more vigorous in calling out the whiteness of others, from the tech sector to the Ivy Leagues to the Academy Awards. In that regard, the optics only get worse. “In the Styles section, every writer is white, while American culture is anything but,” she writes. “Only two of the 20-plus reporters who covered the presidential campaign for The New York Times were black. None were Latino or Asian. That’s less diversity than you’ll find in Donald Trump’s cabinet thus far.”

Spayd, operating as much as an inclusion expert as a reporter, interviewed employees across the Times news ecosystem, including editor Dean Baquet, the first African-American to oversee the newsroom. “It left me believing there is a level of frustration bordering on anger that would be institutionally reckless not to address,” she wrote. She plans on doing more than documenting; she’s looking for solutions.

All of this comes at a time when many major media organizations are struggling to attract new audiences, shift business models, and accommodate new information consumption habits, while adjusting to a president-elect who is openly hostile to their efforts.

We also wrestle with these big questions at Fortune. I’ll ask my colleagues how they think we’re doing. I’m sure the answers will be mixed.

Still, the column gave me hope. The commitment to transparency that the Times is bringing to this self-examination is admirable and reminiscent of the courage that many of you are showing every day. Although the specific business case for diversity varies somewhat from industry to industry, the benefits are always the same: Better business outcomes and happier customers. In the case of the news, the outcome can shape the world. It is vitally important that the news gatherers, whether they come in human or algorithmic form, continue to sharpen the lens through which they view the world and themselves.


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