Jun 9, 2020 - Economy

Top editors step down as newsrooms grapple with race issues

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A slew of high-level resignations from top news editors over the past week shows how much pressure the current racial protests is putting on media companies to confront their own shortcomings on diversity and on covering race issues.

Driving the news: Top editors at Bon Appétit, Refinery29, The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer have all resigned in the past week due to their handling of sensitive stories about race, the Black Lives Matter protests, or newsroom culture.

  • Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned on Monday after a picture surfaced of he and his wife wearing brownface. Rapoport also faced pressure from women who spoke out on social media about a culture of discrimination at the magazine under his leadership against women of color.
  • Refinery29's co-founder and editor-in-chief Christene Barberich announced Monday that she is stepping down from her role as editor-in-chief following allegations from former employees of workplace discrimination against black women.
  • The New York Times' opinion editor James Bennet resigned Sunday, days after widespread internal and external criticism over his decision to green-light an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that called on President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests over the death of George Floyd.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer's longtime top editor Stan Wischnowski, stepped down Saturday, soon after the company was slammed for publishing an article with the headline "Buildings Matter, too" prompting dozens to stage a virtual walkout at the company.

The big picture: The protests have forced many media companies to seriously reckon with their own policies around newsroom diversity and coverage of race issues for the first time.

  • The last time the industry faced such a reckoning around internal policies was during the #MeToo era, which saw the departures of dozens of top-level news bosses after stories became more prominent about the way white men in power undermined female subordinates.

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