In a Friday email to Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine acknowledged failure in “addressing concerns of people of color in the newsroom” and vowed to “do better.”
While the memo obtained by TheWrap heralded Times reporters and their work covering the unrest in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, it also went on to point out the history the newspaper has with “fueling the racism.”
“The Los Angeles Times has a long, well-documented history of fueling the racism and cruelty that accompanied our city’s becoming a metropolis,” Pearlstine wrote in the memo first flagged by The LA Podcast Friday. “This publication fomented the hysteria that led to Japanese American incarceration, the Zoot Suit Riots, redlining and racial covenants, and it turned a blind eye to generations of police abuses against minority communities. At its worst, our coverage didn’t simply ignore people of color — it actively dehumanized them.”
He continued: “More recently, we can be faulted for focusing on a white subscriber base even as the city became majority non-white. Our paper’s history of addressing the concerns of people of color in the newsroom has been equally checkered. Our failures have caused pain for staff past and present.”
The responsibility to fight racism outside of the institution and within it lies with the staff, he wrote, but ultimately with him. He then outlined steps the company is taking and will continue to take to that end, including ongoing discussions with staffers, the forthcoming publication of staff diversity numbers that will become an annual disclosure and the possible implementation of unconscious bias training.
The Times will also “create new procedures and mechanisms to ensure that candidates are properly vetted and always treated with respect and courtesy,” as well as work to develop better systems of soliciting input prior to story publications.
“We shall update you a month from today on our progress on the points above,” he wrote before asking staffers to send in any of their own suggestions.
Read the memo in its entirety below: