Top editor at The New York Times walks back controversial comment on race amid criticism



“In our zeal to make a robust assertion about our office tradition, we ham-handedly mentioned one thing you rightfully noticed as an oversimplification of some of the tough problems with our lives,” Government Editor Dean Baquet instructed workers at a gathering. “It was a deadline mistake and I remorse it.”

“In fact intent issues once we are speaking about language in journalism,” Baquet added. “The writer and his objective additionally matter, the second issues.”

Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn generated controversy on Friday for a notice they despatched to workers saying that Donald G. McNeil Jr. had resigned from the corporate.

McNeil, a longtime well being and science reporter whose star rose as he coated the coronavirus pandemic, parted methods with The Occasions two weeks after a narrative in The Each day Beast revealed he had used a racial slur and made different racist feedback whereas serving as an knowledgeable information for college kids throughout a 2019 junket to Peru.

Within the notice saying McNeil was leaving the corporate, Baquet and Kahn instructed workers, “We don’t tolerate racist language no matter intent.”

That remark drew criticism from exterior critics in addition to staffers inside The Occasions who mentioned that intent and context matter and pointed to The Occasions’ personal use of such language when essential in reporting.

Baquet nodded to that truth in his feedback to staff Thursday.

“The slur we have been discussing is a vile one. I have been referred to as it. However it seems in our pages and it’ll little doubt seem in our pages once more,” Baquet mentioned.

“It shouldn’t be used for impact,” Baquet added. “It comes with a grim historical past and it is a blow to the intestine….every use must be put to the check. That is why we’ve a method ebook. However the principle factor is after all intent issues.”


Baquet’s feedback got here amid a time of maximum divisiveness at The Occasions largely over the way it dealt with McNeil’s case.

Bret Stephens, a conservative opinion columnist at The Occasions, wrote a chunk on Monday skewering Baquet and Kahn for saying intent was irrelevant when utilizing racist language.

However that column was by no means printed. On Thursday morning, in an e mail to a small group of colleagues which was first reported by NBC Information and later obtained by CNN Business, Stephens accused AG Sulzberger, the writer of The Occasions, of getting “spiked” the piece.

Kathleen Kingsbury, the opinion editor of The Occasions, instructed CNN Business that the newspaper frequently chooses to not run columns for varied causes.

“The bar is very excessive for columns that would mirror badly on colleagues,” Kingsbury mentioned. “And we determined that this column did not attain that bar.”

Kingsbury mentioned she had an expert dialog Monday night time with Stephens informing him of the choice after she consulted with Sulzberger.

Kingsbury additionally identified she had beforehand printed and supported Stephens when he wrote columns criticizing The Occasions for different issues.

Stephens instructed CNN Business that he solely despatched his e mail Thursday to a “handful of pleasant colleagues at The Occasions.”

“I by no means supposed the column to be public,” Stephens mentioned. “I remorse that somebody shared it exterior of my quick circle of buddies.”


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