It’s Friday, July 3.
This time in The Front Page: An older white editor lashes out at his staff in two different newsrooms, The Trans Journalists Association launches, and a Q&A with the creator of the Diversity Style Guide.
This edition is by Holly Piepenburg and Marlee Baldridge, with a Q&A by Isabelle Yan and editing by Gabe Schneider.
The Washington Post wants to be seen as the comeback kid of legacy media. They’ve got Karen Attiah, Dave Jorgenson, The Lily, and a list of 2020 Webby Award wins.
But reporters—many of them Black reporters—have been challenging that pristine image for years. They’ve pointed to the newsroom’s hostility and how impossible it is to navigate.
This week, their voices are in The New York Times. Media columnist Ben Smith wrote that The Post’s desire to be perceived as relevant contradicts the actions of executive editor Marty Baron, who has been criticized by current and former staffers for his adherence to vague old-school policies that stifle and harm journalists.
Smith cites testimonies from former staffers accumulating on Twitter (ironic, given the paper’s attitude on social media expression), adding to the existing “32 pages of concerns from current and former employees of color” on file with The Washington Post Guild.
This comes less than a month after The Post announced “more than a dozen” positions focused on race. Roles include a managing editor for diversity and inclusion, a race and ethnicity reporter, and a multiculturalism reporter. Strategies for retaining those new employees after hiring have not been disclosed.
What went wrong at the Los Angeles Times?
With the lede heard ‘round the world, the Los Angeles Times makes it into our newsletter again. VICE’s extensive coverage of the newsroom, in which Laura Wagner and Maxwell Strachan interviewed more than 40 journalists, asks a simple question: “What went wrong at the Los Angeles Times?”
The answer is: a lot. Serious allegations of sexual harassment, temper tantrums, and an environment that pushed some Black staffers out of journalism. The VICE piece traces much of the newsroom’s problems back to executive editor Norman Pearlstine. The story starts by putting readers right in the middle of a conversation between Pearlstine and a long-time investigative reporter, with Pearlstine arguing he hadn’t broken the company’s conflict of interest policy:
“My asshole,” he shouted, “is clean!”
Peter Meehan, one of the article’s subjects, announced in an iOS press release on July 1 that he would be leaving the L.A. Times as its food section editor, citing tweets from earlier in the week that accused him of misconduct. The tweets he referenced came from Tammie Teclemariam, a food writer and wine and spirits professional. She thanked those who shared their experiences of Meehan’s alleged harassment.
Meehan’s apology was swiftly ratioed by tweets best summarized as: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” The New York Times reported that other allegations made in the thread, such as multiple HR complaints against Meehan and that he was being paid a $300,000 salary, are disputed by a spokesperson at the L.A. Times. Meehan is also accused of significantly underpaying non-white and non-male writers, both at the L.A. Times and at his previous publication, Lucky Peach.
Several of Meehan’s former coworkers have spoken out since.
Meehan is hardly the only L.A. Times editor with a reputation for denigrating staff. This comes a week after #BlackatLAT publicly shared Black journalists’ stories of isolation and hostility at the paper.
The Trans Journalists Association
The Trans Journalists Association launched on June 30. Started by Ashley Dejean and dozens of other trans journalists via Slack (as do many support networks), Sam Manzella at NewNowNext.com reports that its leadership is decentralized and community-based.
“I’ve been totally overwhelmed, [by the positive response],” Dejean said in an interview with The Objective, “I posted it on a listserv … Within the same day, someone said, ‘We used this resource to inform one of our interviews today.’”
The organization supports trans journalists in their careers, provides resources for employers or newsrooms that want to improve their coverage of trans communities, and is an answer to complaints of trans-erasure by the NLGJA. Dejean said that the association’s style guide was very poor. “And you know, this is the association the media is going to learn how to write about trans people,” they said. Dejean hopes that once the excitement around launch has died down, TJA can begin on projects like surveys and financial support for trans journalists.
Join here, donate here and follow here. Tune in soon for a full Q&A with Dejean!
Bonus reading: Alex Kapitan’s many helpful guides for inclusive copy-editing.
Who created the Diversity Style Guide?
Isabelle Yan, a social media editor for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, recently spoke to Rachele Kanigel, the creator of the Diversity Style Guide. It’s a revealing conversation about how managers and white news editors think about using terminology belonging to marginalized groups, and how they’re usually seated in fear of using “the wrong word.” A small excerpt is below, but to read the whole Q&A, click here.
IY: On the Diversity Style Guide website, it explicitly states that it’s “not a guide to being politically correct.” Why did you feel the need to clarify this?
RK: Well, when I would talk to people about this project, I had a lot of people, even friends of mine, saying, “Oh, so it’s basically a guide to being politically correct.”
And for me, it’s very much an issue about being fair and being sensitive to different communities, but also representing people and communities accurately. If, for example, you were writing about a nonbinary person and you misgender them, then you lose credibility with your sources. You lose credibility with your readers who understand this person. I actually have this little anecdote in the book where I talk about my brother Robert. So Robert, you can call him Robert. You can call him Rob. His wife calls him Robbie. And my family, we used to call him Roberto, and all of these names would work. But if you call him Bob, he’ll say, no, that’s not my name. And then if somebody calls him Bob again, he gets really upset because that’s not who he is.
I think the same is true of communities or, you know, certain ethnic groups or groups of people with certain disabilities, for example. There’s been some consensus, or there’s been some discussion of, how do we want to be called, how do we want to be represented? And if you go against that, then the journalist is not doing their job and is losing face with their sources and with their audiences.
The Front Page
Objectivity and the scientific method won’t save journalism. Marlee Baldridge writes about why trying to make objectivity a scientific practice has never worked, and never will work, because journalism isn’t science—nor should it be. Read more here.
On diversity, college newsrooms don’t get a pass. Marissa Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Northwestern, writes about how college newsrooms don’t get a pass from covering all communities respectfully and diligently. Read more here.
A bit more media
NAJA again calls for an end to race-based sports mascots in media
The Native American Journalists Association, joined by NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, and SPJ, is asking that news outlets stop using race-based names, logos, and mascots in their coverage.
WYNC Reporters Demand Better
Ginia Bellafante writes for The New York Times: “WNYC Employees Demanded Diversity. They Got Another White Boss.” A letter delivered to managers, saying the new hire was a betrayal of WNYC’s commitment to diversifying the newsroom, received 145 signatures
AAJA Voices cancelled this summer
The Asian American Journalists Association’s summer writing program for students, which has published substantial works of reporting in the past, is cancelled, according to the organization.
There’s a clear split over how people remember Betsy Rothstein
Rothstein, a media gossip columnist from the earlier part of the century, lost her battle with cancer on Sunday. But while primarily white reporters like Olivia Nuzzi remember her fondly; reporters like Wesley Lowery, who she harassed and suggested was not Black, remember her in totality for racist coverage.
The Black Journalists Therapy Relief fund has raised more than $70,000 so far
Sonia Weiser, a journalist and writer of the Opportunities of the Week newsletter, created the fund just a few weeks ago. But since its inception, the fund has raised more than $70,000 to help Black journalists who are unable to pay for therapy during this time. Now the fund is partnering with The International Women’s Media Foundation and Black journalists can now apply for the fund via the IWMF.
“I didn’t do anything to better the situation for anyone,” says Alison Roman
In an interview with comedian Ziwe Fumudoh, New York Times columnist Alison Roman admits she contributed to a toxic environment at Bon Appétit. In the 25-minute-long Instagram Live, Roman also struggles to identify civil rights leaders and five Asian people.
“Why This Journalist’s Death Shouldn’t Be in Vain”
The Washington Post hasn’t brought much attention to a journalist in their newsroom who took their own life. Richard Prince asks: Why?
Balaji S. Srinivasan is once again harassing Taylor Lorenz
The tech investor alluded on Clubhouse, a voice-chat social app, that Taylor Lorenz is racist. Lorenz seemed to be at a loss for what he was referring to and outlined that this isn’t the first time Srinivasan has called her out on social media for what he sees as flawed reporting. There are so many Tweets, like this one here. On Thursday, Vice obtained audio from Clubhouse, an invite only-app, where wealthy venture capitalists bashed Lorenz and journalism in general.
Citing “hateful conduct,” live streaming platform Twitch suspended President Donald Trump’s channel, which is used to rebroadcast campaign rallies. Read more on IGN.
And finally, a few resources
Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | StudyHall XYZ
Thanks for reading. We’ll have more for you soon.
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The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.