Survey Finds 25% of New York Times Reporters Attended Ivy League Schools

A Nieman Lab review of reporter biographies finds the elite colleges “wildly overrepresented” in the newsroom

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About 25% of New York Times reporters hail from the Ivy Leagues, confirming the long-held stereotype of the staff at the “paper of record,” Harvard’s Nieman Lab found.

Joshua Benton, who founded the Nieman Lab, which aims to provide the news industry with strategies for navigating the internet age, studied the recently enhanced biographies of Times reporters and cross-checked information with their LinkedIn profiles and other information available online to see how well the nation’s most prestigious Ivy League colleges are represented in the newsroom.

The Times redesigned the links to reporters’ bylines about a month ago, posting that they give readers a change to learn about staffers’ “deep expertise” in the various subjects they cover — and to make clear that the newsroom is populated with people “from all over the United States, and the world,” noting that “most of us are not from New York.”

The bios frequently include educational information, Nieman’s Benton noted, so he went hunting to see if that information could back up the widely held view that elite colleges are a primary funnel to the news outlet that employs roughly 1,700 people, or about 7% of all newspaper employees in the nation.

In total, he examined about 460 biographies, or about 27% of the news staff.

For undergraduate degrees, his survey included 393 staffers, and he found that Yale University was the most common program Times reporters had attended, with 26 graduates of the New Haven, Connecticut, Ivy on that list.

New York’s Columbia University, also an Ivy, sent 21 bachelor’s recipients downtown to the newsroom, while 20 staffers hold undergrad degrees from Harvard, 10 each from Brown, Cornell and Princeton, eight from the University of Pennsylvania and two from Dartmouth.

While the survey found that roughly three-quarters of staffers aren’t Ivy Leaguers, it did show that Times staffers attended a host of other elite colleges with, Northwestern University, with 14 staffers, University of California at Berkeley with 13 and Georgetown, New York University and Stanford each with eight, leading the pack. Top public colleges across the country were also well represented. Just five staffers listed an HBCU as an alma mater.

The report concluded that the Ivy League schools are “wildly overrepresented” in the newsroom given their size and the number of diplomas they grant each year.

It also noted that surprisingly few Times staffers have graduate degrees, but that among those that do, Columbia University was by far the top school attended.

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