Editors from publications around the country have resigned as newsrooms are revolting, with some over controversial articles and others speaking up about alleged negative workplace cultures.
One of the biggest of these so-called civil wars, as New York Times reporter Bari Weiss described it, is the battle inside The Gray Lady. NYT editorial editor James Bennet resigned, effectively immediately, on Sunday after an article written by Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton was published, causing public backlash among staffers.
Cotton’s piece was published in the op-ed section of the NYT and called for the U.S. military to possibly be deployed in an effort to help squash violent protests following George Floyd’s death. The publication saw many of its employees openly protest the decision on social media, claiming the opinion piece put black coworkers in danger.
Bennet backed up his decision to run the op-ed before resigning. The NYT apologized for publishing the article, although The Times reportedly pitched Cotton on writing the op-ed, according to Business Insider’s Patrick Coffee. (RELATED: ‘It Far Exceeds Their Standards’: Tom Cotton Criticizes NYT For Apologizing ‘In The Face Of The Woke Mob Of Woke Kids’ Over His Op-Ed)
The NYT, however, is far from the only publication to see in-fighting recently spread out into public view.
“All of these are in one way or another the result of current/former staff speaking up and pressuring companies to not tolerate patterns of bad decisions/behavior,” The Daily Beast’s media reporter Max Tani tweeted about all of the recent incidents.
since thursday pic.twitter.com/QNFhzV0xh3
— maxwell (@maxwellstrachan) June 8, 2020
Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor Stan Wischnowski resigned just one day before Bennet, following open backlash from staffers over a headline titled “Buildings Matter, Too.” The article, written by The Inquirer’s architecture critic Inga Saffron, discussed how America’s current unrest – which at times has led to rioting, looting and destroying buildings in some major cities – has affected some of these structures.
Dozens of staffers organized a walkout following the headline, the NYT reported. “Buildings Matter, Too” was intended to play off of the popular “Black Lives Matter” slogan, according to the NYT.
“The Philadelphia Inquirer published a headline in Tuesday’s edition that was deeply offensive,” the publications’ editors wrote in an apology. “We should not have printed it. We’re sorry, and regret that we did. We also know that an apology on its own is not sufficient.”
“The headline accompanied a story on the future of Philadelphia’s buildings and civil infrastructure in the aftermath of this week’s protests. The headline offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement, and suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans. That is unacceptable.”
Wischnowski, after 20 years at the publication, resigned following the internal outrage.
Variety’s editor-in-chief Claudia Eller is yet another to see backlash in her newsroom. Eller has been placed on leave following a public Twitter dispute with a South Asian writer over an article she wrote regarding diversity in the newsroom, the NY Post reported.
“As editor-in-chief of Variety I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past 7 years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH,” Eller wrote according to the Post.
Freelance journalist Piya Sinha-Roy, who previously worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, called Eller’s comments disingenuous. The editor-in-chief responded and called Sinha-Roy “bitter,” which offended numerous employees at Variety, the NY Post reported.
When someone cops to something why would you try to criticize them? You sound really bitter https://t.co/dSsihholK6
— Claudia Eller (@Variety_Claudia) June 4, 2020
Jay Penske, the chairman and CEO of Penske Media Corp. – which owns Variety – also commented on the spat, calling Eller’s response “plainly unacceptable.”
“After a very tough and emotional conversation with Jay this afternoon, I am recognizing that my many years as a journalist did not necessarily prepare me for a leadership role in such a large and thriving newsroom,” Eller wrote to staffers Thursday according to the NY Post. “I sincerely hope that, when the time is right, each of you would consider giving me a chance to rejoin this great organization and someday make you proud. As I said, I have a lot of thinking, working, and changing to do.”
The resignations have not just affected traditional newsroom such as the NYT and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The food magazine Bon Appetit sparked headlines when its editor in chief Adam Rapoport resigned Monday.
Rapoport resigned after a resurfaced photograph with his wife from Halloween 2004 resurfaced that staffers condemned as stereotypically depicting Puerto Ricans. The photograph, which had made the rounds on social media in previous years, resurfaced after a freelance writer posted screenshots where Rapoport asked if her Puerto Rican writing work could make its “way in” to the magazine, according to the NYT.
— chez tammie (@tammieetc) June 8, 2020
The magazine has apparently had issues with how it treats its employees of color and how it reports on food from different cultures, according to the NYT. Staffers called for Rapoport to resign via social media following the image.
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The fifth notable resignation occurred at Refinery29, an entertainment website focusing on young women. Editor-in-chief Christene Barberich resigned Monday following negative social media reports from staffers. Many described various discrimination they said occurred at the company, which is owned by Vice, the NYT reported.
Writer Ashley C. Ford, for example, tweeted that Refinery29 was home to “a toxic company culture where white women’s egos ruled the near nonexistent editorial processes.”
Barberich resigned, effective immediately, but plans to continue as an advisor until the fall, according to the NYT.
“I’ve read and taken in the raw and personal accounts of Black women and women of color regarding their experiences inside our company at Refinery29,” Ms. Barberich wrote on Instagram.
“And, what’s clear from these experiences, is that R29 has to change. We have to do better, and that starts with making room. And, so I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter.”