NY Times’ Top Editor Questions Newsroom Diversity After Shonda Rhimes Fallout

Executive Editor Dean Baquet doesn’t criticize writer Alessandra Stanley’s original “angry black woman” piece

New York Times/Shonda Rhimes
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New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has weighed in on the controversy over the paper’s article that called Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman,” acknowledging that the newsroom staff should be more diverse.

Also read: New York Times Makes Major Changes in Editorial Leadership

Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley, who was heavily criticized for her Sept. 18 review of ABC’s new drama “How to Get Away With Murder,” is part of the publication’s staff of cultural critics, which has 20 writers but only two people of color.

Baquet told NY Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan in her column Wednesday that those numbers need improvement. “I would criticize us for that,” he said, “I would love to diversify that area.

“It’s an issue and we need to work on it,” he continued.

But Sullivan noted that the paper was in the process of reducing Times staff rather than increasing it, and asked Baquet whether diversification becomes more difficult.

“It’s a lot harder to work on it,” he said. “But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I have an obligation to diversify the staff and I will figure out a way.”

It’s not the first time Sullivan has spoken out about her paper labeling Rhimes an “angry black woman.” On Monday she authored a piece that echoed the public outcry over Stanley’s review.

“The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was — at best — astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch,” wrote Sullivan.

But Sullivan’s conversation with Baquet has him stopping far short of criticizing Stanley’s piece.

“[She] was trying to make a profound point,” he told Sullivan. “Clearly, it wasn’t read that way.”

As TheWrap previously reported, Stanley also refused to apologize in the wake of her controversial article.

Also read: NY Times Public Editor on Critic’s Shonda Rhimes’ Angry Black Woman Remark: ‘Tone-Deaf and Out of Touch’

“The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype,” she said in a statement to TheWrap.