A union representing some 1,200 New York Times employees is urging that articles be subjected to “sensitivity reads.”
The News Guild of New York said its reps recommended the extra layer of vetting during a meeting with the Grey Lady’s leadership earlier this month over how to make the paper “more diverse and equitable.”
The meeting came in response to a newsroom uproar over Republican Sen. Tom Cotton’s controversial op-ed.
“Diversity, inclusion and equity is not a static goal. It is an ongoing commitment that must be implemented in every facet of the company,” the Guild wrote in a memo.
The suggestions include diversifying the paper’s workforce, annually publishing data that includes information on demographics in hiring, promotion, and retention and investing in mentorship programs for people of color.
But one proposal raised some eyebrows on social media.
“Get it right from the beginning: sensitivity reads should happen at the beginning of the publication process, with compensation for those who do them,” the union wrote on Twitter.
It added in the memo: “Planning of sensitivity reads at the start of the editorial process, not at the end.”
“Someone who is asked to spend more than 15 minutes performing this task should receive compensation, mirroring the existing policy for translation fees.”
Cotton, of Arkansas, — whose op-ed calling for military intervention to crack down on protests sparked an uprising of Times staffers and the ouster of editorial page editor James Bennet — chided the guild for its recommendation.
“‘Sensitivity reads’ for op-eds? And extra compensation for censoring?” Cotton asked.
“New @nytimes motto: All the news that’s fit to print and assessed for sensitivity by well-compensated woke censors,” the lawmaker added.
Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro piled on, writing: “What if we just fire everyone who demands a sensitivity read because it is childish bulls–t.”
In recent years, some publishing companies and writers have hired “sensitivity readers” to provide feedback on pieces that deal with topics like race and religion and identify possible cultural inaccuracies or representation issues.
Some in the industry, though, have likened the practice to censorship.
The Times even explored the issue in a 2017 article titled: “In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?”