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Getting Diversity Into the Newsroom

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.

On Point

Investigation: 780 million opioid pills shipped to poor, rural counties in West Virginia, fueling addiction, overdosesThe numbers are staggering. Kermit, W. Va. has a population of 392. Their one pharmacy received some 9 million hydrocodone pills from out-of-state drug companies over a two-year period. The county, home to many of the states’ poorest residents, has the fourth-highest prescription opioid death rate in the United States. In six years, drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia, amounting to 433 pills per person. “Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness,” says one former pharmacist.Charleston Gazette-Mail

On Dylann Roof, and being white or black in the criminal justice system
Buzzfeed’s Bim Adewunmi has written a wrenching essay based on her reporting on the trial of Dylan Roof, the young white supremacist who killed nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina last June. Regardless of what was going through his mind at the time of his crime, he had every expectation of surviving his arrest. In fact, he seemed utterly at ease, unafraid, at home. “He had not been especially worried he might die while in police custody,” she writes, musing what would have happened if Dylan had been, say, Darnell, and all the racial variables were reversed.
Buzzfeed

A journalist games Google search to remove holocaust deniers and hate speech
Plenty of news outlets including Fortune wrote about the recent trouble with a Google search question, “Did the Holocaust happen?” The search offered up a link to the Nazi site Stormfront and this article: “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen.” Tech writer Carole Cadwalladr knocked the link off the top spot by paying for a favorable spot for a different, truthful site, using the company’s own advertising program.
The Guardian

White supremacists call for trolling attacks on Jews in Whitefish, Montana
A white supremacist website called The Daily Stormer has issued a “call to action” against specific Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, the home of white nationalist leader, Richard Spencer. After a report surfaced that Spencer’s mother was forced to sell her commercial building because of complaints about her son’s activities, the site posted the phone numbers, emails and twitter handles of Jewish residents, some with photos, with a yellow Star of David and the word “Jude”—German for Jew. Many of the people targeted are part of Love Lives Here, a group that fights discrimination of all kinds.
Missoulian

A white city school votes to leave its mostly black school district
The school in question, Center Point High School, is just outside of Birmingham, Ala. in a mostly white city called Gardendale. A few years ago, the citizens of Gardendale raised their own property taxes looking to spin off their school into a district apart from the larger, mostly black Jefferson County. Gardendale’s mayor says the move has nothing to do with race, but other officials worry that the move will re-segregate a district that has been sued before. “I don’t fault a city for wanting to do this, but they have to be mindful of the overall impact,” says the Jefferson County Superintendent. A federal judge will decide.
NPR

What you need to know if you’re the first in your family to go to college
For low-income students, being the first to go to college is an extraordinary opportunity and a uniquely stressful experience. St. Louis native Kielah Harbert has co-written the guide she wished she had as both a high school student and now, as a low-income student of color in an affluent, mostly white college. A junior at Washington University in St. Louis, Harbert says that her parents had no experience with either college or the admissions process, so she was largely on her own. She digs into financing options and advises students to think beyond the achievement of college acceptance. “I don’t think I spent enough time saying ‘Well, how does this school benefit me as a student?’”
St. Louis Public Radio

The Woke Leader

The Harmony Project will make your heart sing
David Brown is the choir master of The Harmony Project, a treasured institution in Columbus, Ohio. It is profoundly inclusive. There are no auditions. Everyone is welcome—as long as you’re willing to commit to a certain number of service hours in the community. And Brown brings together singers from the Ohio Reformatory for Women, who stand alongside the warden, a local CEO, and other community members to belt out songs of inspiration. “This choir is a snapshot of the greater Columbus community,” he says. “This is us showing the world who we are.” This report on the lead-up to their annual concert is a must-watch. And yes, you’ll be ugly crying at your desk. 
The CBS Sunday Morning

In medicine, empathy may be overrated
Karin Jongsma, a German bioethicist, makes the counterintuitive case that empathy in medicine, specifically when it is dispensed by highly trained medical experts like surgeons, might be an overrated virtue. “We’ve long assumed that the empathizing doctor is the better doctor, but both aspects of empathy—the cognitive and the emotional—can malfunction,” she says. Over-identification with a patient might lead to blind spots and biased thinking, she says. Instead, emotional distance can help practitioners make better decisions, and a more detached form of compassion will protect them from emotional burn-out.
Aeon

Serena and Common have an epic conversation about race and sport
In this extended interview, musician Common turns out to be an interesting conversation partner, unafraid to broach any subject. But if you’re pressed for time, start with part three. Serena Williams talks about how she managed to deal with the pressure of being scrutinized for her body type, often cruelly, by the public. There was a time when her strength made her uncomfortable, and she began to question the power of other people to define her blackness. “If you don’t like it, I don’t want you to like it,” she says. “I like it, and I love me, and there are other people who do look like me.” Clips of young female athletes in all sports sharing what Serena has meant to them drives the point home.
The Undefeated on ESPN

Quote

Man, if I get a chance to speak on the microphone, I’ve got to say something somewhere in there. You know, I’m going to laugh and have fun, too, but something has to be said that has some substance, because this is a platform, and the power that we have with words and with this microphone is phenomenal. 
—Common