Black LA Times Journalists Demand Change From Leadership: We Are ‘Ignored, Marginalized, Under-Valued’

The LA Times Guild’s Black Caucus sent a demand letter to newspaper leadership Tuesday

Last Updated: June 23, 2020 @ 10:43 PM

The Los Angeles Times Guild’s Black Caucus sent a letter to the newspaper’s leadership Tuesday, outlining the lack of Black journalists in the newsroom, the experiences of those journalists who are Black and demands for how the organization can rectify the issues.

The letter was addressed to owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, as well as executive editor  Norman Pearlstine and managing editors Kimi Yoshino and Scott Kraft. It was signed by 15 Black Caucus members and 183 other Guild members “in solidarity.” A representative for the Times did not immediately return a request for comment from TheWrap.

“The nation’s reckoning over race has put a much-needed spotlight on inequities at The Times. We are in a crisis and it is not new,” the letter said.

It continued, “Those of us who have been here since the tumult of 1992 say history is repeating itself. We don’t have enough Black journalists — or, more broadly, journalists of color — to cover our overwhelmingly diverse city, state and nation with appropriate insight and sensitivity. And most of us who do work here are often ignored, marginalized, under-valued and left to drift along career paths that leave little opportunity for advancement. Meanwhile, we’re hearing the same empty promises and seeing the same foot-dragging from management.”

The letter made demands including a commitment from leadership to hire Black journalists proportionate to the city’s diversity, create a pipeline for Black journalists to move up in the newsroom, give a public apology and correct pay disparities.

The letter and the individual experiences of Black Los Angeles Times journalists past and present were promoted by the group on Twitter using the hashtag #BlackAtLAT.

Here is the full memo:

Two years ago this month, you completed your purchase of The Los Angeles Times with a commitment to rebuild our storied institution by investing in independent, local journalism. Today, we, the Black Caucus of the L.A. Times Guild, ask you to make another commitment to invest — this time to build a truly diverse and inclusive newsroom.

The nation’s reckoning over race has put a much-needed spotlight on inequities at The Times. We are in a crisis and it is not new. Those of us who have been here since the tumult of 1992 say history is repeating itself. We don’t have enough Black journalists — or, more broadly, journalists of color — to cover our overwhelmingly diverse city, state and nation with appropriate insight and sensitivity. And most of us who do work here are often ignored, marginalized, under-valued and left to drift along career paths that leave little opportunity for advancement. Meanwhile, we’re hearing the same empty promises and seeing the same foot-dragging from management.

We cannot allow this to continue. This is as much a moral imperative, as a financial one. The Times will not survive without winning over subscribers who are not white, and the only way to do that is to have a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Therefore, the Black Caucus demands:

–Commit to hiring enough Black journalists to, at a minimum, reflect the percentage of Black residents in Los Angeles County. We currently have 26 Black journalists on staff. That means The Times would need to hire 18 Black journalists over three years, including five over the next year, for a total of 44.

–Create a pipeline for Black journalists to advance their careers within The Times. Many on staff want to become editors, investigative reporters and columnists, but have found there is no path forward.

–A public apology. This is not just for the Black journalists on staff, but for the communities that The Times has maligned over the years with tone-deaf coverage that has often inflamed racial tensions. If we are to move forward, it is important to confront and make peace with our past.

–Correct pay disparities especially for Black journalists. While the Guild contract helped narrow the salary gap, many Black journalists are still woefully underpaid compared to our white counterparts.

–Hire someone to oversee the Metpro program, lead recruitment, and support the paper’s equity and inclusion efforts. This should be a masthead-level position with a budget large enough to bring in coaches (for writing, copy editing, graphics, etc.) and other resources to invest in young journalists.

–Reshape our coverage to better reach people of color that the company, itself, has identified as a neglected and untapped base of potential subscribers. Often, our framing and selection of stories is designed mostly with a white audience in mind at the expense of communities of color. Our coverage must capture the nuance and complexity, in particular, of the Black community. That starts with listening to reporters.

–Commit to ending the work-share program by its intended date, August 1, without any cuts to staff.

–Require Norm and Kimi to meet one-on-one with all Black journalists on staff to hear their stories. Reading the Diversity channel in Slack isn’t enough to truly understand the full experience of what it’s like to work at The Times while Black.

As you wrote in the very pages of this paper, recalling your time in South Africa during apartheid, “we cannot be bystanders and enablers in a crisis.” Instead, we must “confront the racism” that affects “Black lives disproportionately.” That “we” must include the Los Angeles Times and those “Black lives” are ours. Because we matter.

Signed,

The Black Caucus of the L.A. Times Guild