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The “Gray Lady,” aka the New York Times, has had a storied past. She has stood at the center of controversies and victories and now is at the center of a historic milestone, but under the ouster of its former executive editor Jill Abramson, the lede has been buried—the ascension of the first African-American to lead this venerable institution, Dean Baquet.
Why is it that the fact that a woman has been relieved of her title at the paper is more significant than the fact that a Black man, for the first time in the history of the more than 160-year-old paper, has been named executive editor?
You could say that it is because we live in a “post–racial” society that his appointment has been all but ignored. There was no fanfare, no parade, just business as usual.
But is it? What can we expect? We now have a man of color, a brother, leading an institution that helps to set the tone and the direction of thought in America. At the helm of a paper read by millions, Baquet now has the opportunity to steer the direction of information disseminated in the U.S. and abroad. He holds the key to changing the way the world sees people of color, if he so chooses.
Abramson, who left under a cloud of controversy fueled by one side citing incompetence in management and Abramson citing gender discrimination and unequal pay issues. It is interesting to note, however, that the women of the Times have not come to her defense. In fact, in a series of tweets by Lydia Polgreen, New York Times Deputy International editor, the message is clear. Polgreen writes, “One telling fact: The women of the Times would revolt en masse if they thought gender played any role at all in Abramson’s firing.
“There has been no revolt. There have been many searching conversations, but no women’s revolt over Jill Abramson’s firing at the NYT.
“Are women at the NYT afraid of losing their jobs if they speak up? I don’t think so. I know I am not”.
Had it not been for Abramson leaving under such a cloud, would Baquet have ascended to the rank of executive editor? I think so.
Baquet is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been managing editor of the Times since 2011. In a statement, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the New York Times and chairman of the New York Times Company, said, “There is no journalist in our newsroom or elsewhere better qualified to take on the responsibilities of executive editor at this time than Dean Baquet. He is an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world and across the organization.”
So now it is time to wait and see. We have always said that part of the power of the press is the ability to dictate what is on the front page and the home page. Mr. Baquet, the front pages are yours. Please do us proud.