Pattern of Racism in Media Continues as Black NY Times Employees File Discrimination Lawsuit

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The New York Times building in Manhattan, New York City/ wikipedia
The New York Times building in Manhattan, New York City/ wikipedia

Two Black women filed a class action lawsuit against the New York Times on April 28, alleging the newspaper discriminates on the basis of race, sex and age.

The Guardian reports Ernestine Grant, 62, and Marjorie Walker, 61, accused CEO Mark Thompson of instating a policy of “deplorable discrimination” in the suit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“The New York Times, widely touted as the “paper of record,” has been engaging in deplorable discrimination that has remained largely off the record. Unbeknownst to the world at large, not only does the Times have an ideal customer (young, white, wealthy), but also an ideal staffer (young, white, unencumbered with a family) to draw that purported ideal customer. In furtherance of these discriminatory goals, the Times has created a workplace rife with disparities,” the lawsuit said.

Thompson served as director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for eight years before joining the Times in 2012. During his tenure, the BBC faced several complaints of ageism from older female employees.

Chief Revenue Officer Meredith Levien, whom the suit alleges Thompson hired to “carry out his vision of the ideal workforce”, is named as co-defendant.

The claimants referenced a speech Levien made to Times’ employees, calling it “shockingly rife with racially charged innuendos”. The suit said Levien’s comments made it clear that she was looking for young, single and white “fresh faces” to represent the workforce.

“…references to the need for employees to be “people who look like the people we are selling to” and even going so far as to say “this isn’t what our sales team should look like.” Ms. Levien’s remarks gave cover to and outright endorsed increasing disparate treatment against older, female and/or non-white employees in the Advertising division.

Eileen Murphy, head of communications, said the claims were “recycled, scurrilous and unjustified.”

“It also completely distorts the realities of the work environment at the New York Times. We strongly disagree with any claim that The Times, Mr. Thompson or Ms. Levien have discriminated against any individual or group of employees.”

Murphy said the Times intended to “vigorously” fight the allegations in court.

Charges of racism, sexism and ageism are not new to the publishing industry.

People Magazine faced similar allegations in a 2014 lawsuit by Tatsha Robertson, the publication’s lone Black editor. Robertson’s suit labeled the magazine “a discriminatory organization run entirely by white people who intentionally focus the magazine on stories involving white people and white celebrities.”

Robertson said she was one of only five Black employees at the magazine.

The one-time Essence editor, said former Executive Editor Betsy Gleick treated her as an outsider from the time she joined in 2010.

“You need to talk like everyone else here. You’re not at Essence anymore,” the suit quoted Gleick as saying.

Robertson said any efforts she made to include more stories about African Americans were met with disinterest or disdain.

She recalled the time the paper put Trayvon Martin on the cover. “Ms. Gleick was completely obsessed with attempting to unearth any potential negative fact about him before doing so,” the suit said. “Ms. Gleick repeatedly questioned whether he was a ‘good kid,’ yet never made efforts to vet white victims of crime.”

Black writer and producer Ricky Blalock filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Time-Warner owned CNN in December of last year, claiming the network overlooks Black employees and denies them on-the-job training.

Blalock alleged that white staffers received paid training, while Blacks did not. The full-time employee said he lost a promotion to a white woman after filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier in the year.

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