The New York Times promotes diversity and its own credibility by promoting three employees to senior-level editorial positions, including a woman to position of executive editor, a person of color to managing editor, and an openly gay man to Sunday opinion columnist.
This past week The New York Times’ announcement of the promotion of Jill Abramson as its first woman executive editor in the 160-year history of the “paper of record” was celebrated not only by women at the Times, but was given noteworthy mentions, as well as substantial editorial space from around the journalistic world by The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine and the eminent Poynter Institute, which asked in a leading post what Abramson’s appointment could mean to women in the newspaper business at large.
Abramson did not miss a beat in adding more history to the moment by announcing the promotion of Dean Baquet from Washington bureau chief to managing editor, the first African-American to ascend to that position. Baquet, considered a “reporter’s editor,” earned that respect with real chops in 2006 when, as the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, he was fired for refusing to carry out orders from publisher David Hiller to sack a considerable number of reporters in the newsroom that would have significantly, according to Baquet, diminish the paper’s great tradition of investigative reporting.
Just nine days earlier, Andrew Rosenthal, the Times opinion page editor, announced that openly gay Frank Bruni, a staff writer, former food critic at the Grey Lady, and author of two books, would join the eminently regarded opinion-editorial page as an anchor feature writer for the Sunday edition and also write for the Thursday page.
“Mr. Bruni had been the Rome bureau chief from July 2002 until March 2004, a post he took after working as a reporter in the Washington D.C. bureau from December 1998 until May 2002,” Bruni’s bio at the Times states. “While in Washington, he was among the journalists assigned to Capitol Hill and Congress until August 1999, when he was assigned full-time to cover the presidential campaign of Gov. George W. Bush. He then covered the White House for the first eight months of the Bush administration, and subsequently spent seven months as the Washington-based staff writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.”
The opinion page has seen considerable change in the past several months with the December 2010 departure of its former editor David Shipley to Bloomberg, along with the March departures of liberal icons Frank Rich and Bob Herbert.
I developed great respect for Jill Abramson in 1994 when she and the intrepid Jane Mayer (now a New Yorker writer) authored Strange Justice, the Selling of Clarence Thomas that revealed copious amounts of documented and politically damaging information about Thomas and his serious dalliance in pornograpy that was never revealed during his epic Senate confirmation hearings in 1991. And I came to love Abramson in 2009, the managing editor known as a tough newswoman and hard-bitten investigative reporter, when she revealed a softer side as author of the Puppy Diaries, a weekly article for one year about the life of Scout, her family’s new puppy (it included an interactive feature that solicited Times’ readers to post their dog’s photo, which I promptly did of my adolescent Bailey, just 8-months-old).
All in all, I think these Times’ hires reflect a world that respectfully places women, blacks and gays at the helm of one of the most eminently regarded newspapers in the world. This is a “breakout moment” that so many of us have worked toward creating, achieving and is now beginning to take hold at the beginning of the 21st century. It is a moment to be celebrated.
Images – New York Times building (top), New York Times newsroom 1942 (bottom).
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
Read Tanya Domi’s most-recent previous article at The New Civil Rights Movement, “DADT: Memorial Day Marks 70 Years of Discrimination Against Gay Service Members.“
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