The Media’s Nervous Breakdown Over Race
If you were alive and on social media in early June, you were almost certainly swamped by scores of media and cultural organizations putting out statements, Instagram posts, and self-critical columns expressing solidarity in the fight against systemic prejudice.
“We recognize that there is much work to be done, and we are committed to engaging in this work to eradicate institutional racism,” announced the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. “I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past 7 years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH,” confessed the editor in chief of Variety. The women’s lifestyle publication Refinery29, like many websites, changed its homepage color to black instead of its usual peppy pink.
Within days, the heads of all those institutions were out of a job.
In summer 2020, the American media experienced something like a collective nervous breakdown. Against the backdrop of the coronavirus and associated lockdowns, with whole sections of the industry teetering on the edge of collapse, newsrooms from coast to coast engaged in a series of internal revolts about race, defenestrating editors over everything from headlines to Halloween costumes.
Current and former employees launched self-styled “name-and-shame” campaigns on Twitter to out editors and organizations whose commitment to diversity and equity were deemed insufficient. A
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