Internal WashPost Testimony: Religion's For "Kooks," Reporters Mock Pope At Death

MediaBistro's FishBowl DC bloggers, Garrett Graff and Patrick Gavin, posted an internal Washington Post report on racial diversity at the newspaper. The January 26 cover letter to newsroom staff from top editors -- Executive Editor Len Downie, Managing Editor Phil Bennett, and Deputy Managing Editor Milton Coleman -- boasted of increased diversity in hiring: "Through determined recruiting, we have increased the number of minority journalists working in our newsroom to an all-time high of 152, which is 23.5 percent of our professional staff. The two percent increase from 21.4 percent at the end of 2004 is the largest ever."

But the real dirt in the 30-plus page report is the testimony of anonymous Post reporters. This one sticks out for me, on page 5: "One person noted an anti-religion bias in the newsroom. When referring to the faithful, 'the word of choice around here is "kooks".' This same person felt offended during the recent coverage of the Pope’s death, when some of her colleagues, she said, were mocking the Pope. 'I was [too] intimidated to complain, even since my editor was part of it, so I got up and left. Faith is derided.'" Other reporters complained:

-- "Another reporter said she has trouble pitching gay-related story ideas in the past, but the paper is now more receptive."

-- "Some sections were perceived to be difficult or impossible to break into. One respondent said the National staff ‘seems like the tenured faculty at an Ivy League college.’"

-- "One respondent, a middle-aged white female editor, said she was ‘shouted down’ when she pointed out that something perceived as racial discrimination in fact may not be."

-- "A former Financial reporter who left in 2005 questioned the Post’s coverage of Hispanics. She said the paper ‘covers Hispanics mostly from a Salvadoran gangster angle and day laborer stories.’ She complained that these stories tend to focus on the reactions of ‘rich suburbanites and Financial owners,’ rather than the perspective of Hispanic immigrants."

The Post diversity report writers note: "Not a single reporter who responded said he or she experienced any overt forms of racism while at the newspaper. But a few said they felt that most of the stars who seemed able to leap ahead of everyone else tend to be white and male." The report began with an introduction by reporter Darryl Fears, who argued:

Two of every three black, Asian, and Latino members of the staff left the newsroom within the past 10 years, and exodus that has greatly undermined the newspaper’s diversity goals and more importantly, the paper’s ability to cover our rapidly changing metro area. As the Washington region exploded in size and ethnic diversity, the ethnic makeup of the newsroom remained virtually the same – nearly 80 percent white.

Reporters think minorities are more sensitive and knowledgeable in reporting on minorities, but the Post doesn't think that they should hire conservatives to be more sensitive and knowledgeable in reporting on conservatives. One report says the Greater Washington area is almost 62 percent white. It was interesting to see how the Post recruits minority journalists:

"Each year the Washington Post spends about $100,000 recruiting talented journalists of color...The newspaper makes a major effort in money and staffing to hire journalists of color at the annual AAJA, NABJ, and NAHJ conventions, which are the primary focus of recruitment efforts, according to Milton Coleman, Deputy Managing Editor."

That's the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. You can get one-stop shopping for info on these groups at unityjournalists.org. The other group in this alliance is the Native American Journalists Association, the one CNN just gave $50,000.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis