NYT editor attempts to justify demeaning job advert following online backlash
New York Times Editor Michael Slackman has attempted to explain how the paper recently ended up posting a job advert that was widely perceived to be demeaning to Africans.
On July 3, 2019, the New York Times published a job advert in search of the next Bureau Chief for its Nairobi, Kenya, office.
But the reductive language used to describe the ideal candidate’s role and responsibilities reignited an online storm over the media house’s tired stereotypes about Africa.
The first few lines of the ad stated:
“Our Nairobi bureau chief has a tremendous opportunity to dive into news and enterprise across a wide range of countries, from the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the Horn of Africa, down through the forests of Congo and the shores of Tanzania.”
The advert sparked a massive online uproar with three Kenyan poets, calling themselves sisterhood.lam, brilliantly clapping back with video to troll the paper with a catchy rendition of the job ad which they shared on social media.
On Sunday Mr Slackman took to social media to respond to the viral poem.
“Dear Lam Sisterhood, Thank you. I loved and learned from your “dramatic reading.” I deserved it!,” he wrote.
“That job posting was my doing and I want to explain what happened. We are currently looking for three correspondents to cover Africa and I saw this as an opportunity to find the best there is,” he explained.
Mr Slackman further attempted to justify the wordings in the controversial job advert.
“But I plead guilty to taking a short cut: Rather than write a new job description, a posting from about 18 months went out. I gave it a cursory look, and approved it. Mea Culpa. As International Editor, I have the privilege to lead one of the finest reporting staffs in the world and New York Times is committed to covering Africa, not as if it were some stereotype, but because it matters,” he explained further.
He however asked readers to judge their correspondents on the quality of their work, not that job posting.
He also invited journalists who are interested in covering Africa for NYT to please send him a note on how one would approach the job.
“If you want to make a video, that’s cool, too,” he concluded.