The New York Times Wrote a Biased and Inaccurate Story About Me.

Let Me Set The Record Straight.

Monday, November 22, 2021

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the New York Times ran a  story about me, by media reporter Marc Tracy. The Headline, "WNYC Retracts Four Articles on Its News Site, Gothamist," suggested the piece was going to be another in a line of breathless articles about turbulence at the country's largest public media outlet, my workplace. But the subheading and, more evocatively my photo, told readers what the story was really about, "In a new episode of turmoil at the radio station, the author of the articles was reassigned."

There is just one problem with the premise of the piece: It is wrong. I am still the leader of WNYC's Race & Justice Unit and I'm not going anywhere.

I began fighting for a unit to focus on law, race, accountability, and justice pretty much from the day I officially joined the staff at WNYC in 2015. Then, after the murder of George Floyd, media outlets felt new urgency to bring forth the work of race, class, criminal justice reform and accountability. At WNYC, we launched the Race & Justice Unit in September 2020. It is my unit and I run it.

I have never been told that I was reassigned. I was at the very same meeting Marc Tracy reported on in his article. No such statement was made by my editor-in-chief, Audrey Cooper. So the subheading and the premise of the article is inaccurate and damaging to my reputation.

About the four articles: Audrey Cooper shared with Mr. Tracy that I expressed the full range of emotions when notified about this transgression. And it is true: I was mortified, as she told him, and devastated. Shocked as well. I've done a lot of soul-searching.  But none of that made it into the article, nor did the full text of my written apology.

What I want my readers, listeners, followers, and fans to know is that I care about this. Deeply. I will never get over it. Integrity is at the core of who I am as a person. I was gutted by this. And I am terribly, terribly sorry.

But I still did one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do: I tracked down and reached out to each of the original authors.

All were surprised to hear from me.

None had heard from the reporter.

And for what it's worth, none were angry with me. None were offended.

Two said they did not think I needed to be apologizing for anything at all.  I should not worry about it, they said, since I lacked the intent to do anything wrong. One of those same two researchers said he thought it was a shame that they took my work down, given the larger import of the articles. He wanted to know what is really going there.

Why is this a story for the New York Times anyway?

The story seeks to compare my situation with that of a former colleague, Fred Mogul who left the company in February 2021. I am not going to comment on Fred's situation, but I am going to comment on the lack of substance in Tracy's reporting. My face is there, my story is there. But none of the context (my emotion, my apology, the circumstances around what happened, or anything about the work I've done at WNYC or in my career) is there. Then there's Fred.

What is the only comparison my colleagues are seeking to make?

It's RACE.

Let's just speak plainly about race, because we never do in this country and that is the source of so many of our problems.

Mr. Tracy relied upon sources in my newsroom to believe I was not fired because I am African American. Wittingly or unwittingly, he leaves readers with the impression that I am receiving some sort of preferential treatment because I am a Black woman and Fred is at a disadvantage because he is a white man.

I can't speak for Fred, but I will say this:

I have been Black my whole life. It has never been easy for me to be a Black female. From my earliest days of being disciplined more harshly at school, to being targeted for bullying on the playground, from being underestimated by my white teachers, only to get to law school to be underestimated by my peers who assumed I didn't belong there. Blackness is not a benefit. And when an allegation of wrongdoing is leveled against a Black person, whether it is in the courtroom or the newsroom, the presumption is not one of innocence. It is one of guilt.

When I was a little girl, I went into a candy store with some school friends. They were all white. I was the only Black child in the group. As we paid for some sodas and lollipops, one of the girls pocketed some chewing gum the proprietor kept near the register.  Bazooka.  2 cents apiece.  Should have been a call to her parents. But instead, the shop owner blamed me for it. Not my friend. Me.

Everyone who works in a newsroom knows that what we do is collaborative. It's not a lone wolf kind of process. We work together. We're a team. Yet, I'm the only one who has taken any responsibility for the publication of those four stories.

I spoke to Marc Tracy on the record for over 11 minutes and nothing I said made it into the story.  Mr. Tracy told me that everyone he talked to spoke highly of my character, and of my 25 year record as a journalist, but he didn't report that. But more importantly, he chose not to report the larger context I gave him for this story: race.

We spoke at length and on-the-record, and he asked me not one question about my work, my role as the visionary behind the Race & Justice Unit, my role as Senior Editor of the unit, the composition of the unit or the challenges facing the larger newsroom and organization. Despite reporting that I "would recruit employees, mentor staff members and lead events, among other duties" he asked me no questions about that work — work I have been doing for more than a year, as expressed in the Vision Statement of the Race & Justice Unit since its launch, a Vision Statement I drafted.

I have spent the entirety of my professional life doing this work: mentoring young talent from all backgrounds many of whom have gone on to flourish in law and journalism across the country. I have dedicated myself to representing underrepresented minorities against oppressive power systems — as a law clerk working on death penalty appeals, a criminal defense attorney (decades before that was a popular choice), as a policy analyst around race, crime, and economic reform in Washington DC.

And most significantly — and as reflected on my WNYC bio and show page — I became a journalist precisely to amplify the voices of those without a platform. Long before the murder of George Floyd, I spent my airtime speaking out about the desperately cruel inequalities in our criminal justice system based upon my first-hand professional and personal experience. I was the first national broadcast correspondent to report on the Innocence Project and it's important work and have been working closely with them ever since.

Even reporting on major historical inflection points, whether during the Bush v. Gore recount or standing amidst the rubble of Ground Zero, I brought the stories home to Black voters turned away at the polls and underpaid Black and Latina daycare workers who saved the children in their care as the debris from the Twin Towers rained down upon them.

I have remained at WNYC through the so-called "Troubles" Mr. Tracy references in his article, in a concerted effort to help move the organization towards norms and behaviors consistent with its mission statement.

While I have publicly taken responsibility as an editor and author, this story arises in the context of a cancel culture in which people who disagree with a colleague will use social and traditional media to destroy that person's work and career.

This story is not about four articles or unattributed phrases that appeared on Gothamist. This story is about the effort underway at my workplace to undermine the work that I have been endeavoring to do in the realm of race and justice. It is easy to audit a website. It is much more difficult to do the hard work of accountability for our own complicity in the systems of oppression that are an impediment to change. Despite this effort to undermine my work and vision I am committed to continuing the mission alongside my true allies.

Again, I am the leader of WNYC's Race & Justice Unit and I'm not going anywhere.


Jami Floyd @jamifloyd

Mike Paul
[email protected]