7 Lame Excuses For Why White Men Dominate Your Favorite Liberal Sites

FILED TO: Media and Entertainment

The mainstream media, with the exception of MSNBC, maintains an abysmal record when it comes to diversity, while conservative media don’t even pretend to careThe American Prospect‘s Gabriel Arana took a look at diversity among liberal publications like The Nation, Slate, and Mother Jones, and came away with a raft of excuses from their editors, all of which are pure horseshit. Arana’s own over-complicated analysis eventually gets around to some productive points, but what’s truly revealing are the excuses he elicits from the editors of liberal outlets:

1. They don’t know how white they are.


“When VIDA publishes those numbers, it rattles around your head. It’s a form of shaming I think is actually fairly effective.” Additionally, “Having analytics and goals and knowing that it’ll just be embarrassing if you don’t do better next year is a pretty strong guarantee that things will be better.” – Editor Franklin Foer, The New Republic

The largest staff that Arana reported on was Slate’s, at 75, with five minorities on staff. If you need a report from an advocacy group to tell you that your staff is 94% white, then you also need a seeing-eye dog.

2. It’s a white world, after all.


“[They] are drawing from the milky-white pool of ‘existing talent.'” – Arana on Vox and FiveThirtyEight

I realize Arana put “existing talent” in scare-quotes, but this is an unwitting summation of the entire problem: of course, minority talent “exists,” it’s just invisible to these people.

3. They’re just not that good.


“[We] choose staff for what they can bring to the magazine, first and foremost.” – anonymous editor

This is the kind of horseshit you usually hear from mainstream protectors of the white male status quo, the notion that diversity and merit are somehow incompatible, and maybe it’s even a little bit racist not to snub minorities if they’re not up to snuff. The problem is that they’re mixing up the diversity equation; they’re not failing because their hiring isn’t diverse, their hiring isn’t diverse because they are failing to properly consider merit. If you can’t find a good black, female, gay writer, that’s not because black, gay, or female writers are fucking up, it’s because you are.

4. The economy — because women and minorities command such huge salaries


“Up until 2008, newsrooms—especially large ones—were really really conscious about diversity. The recession made newsrooms very miserly thinking about issues like that. The thinking was, ‘We are in survival mode, we are about saving our jobs. This is not an issue we care about.'” – Editor David Plotz, Slate

5. Damn unions!

Facing Race 2012, Baltimore, MD, 11/16/12

“The staff here is unionized, which means there is little job turnover. We only get to make a hire every four or five years.” Executive Editor Richard Kim, The Nation

Arana notes, “Among the progressive publications I examined, The Nation scored the lowest, with slightly over 4 percent of its staff hailing from racial and ethnic minority groups.”

6. The higher they get, the whiter they are.


“We practice fairly specialized form of journalism and the pool of people who do it isn’t terribly large to begin with, and then you look at the group of people who are practicing at a higher level and it’s just not a diverse pool.” – Foer

7. They won’t work for free.


“Most of our staff comes through our intern program. Do we get as many applicants of color as we’d like? Probably not, but we do get them and we have hired them.” – Editor Ellen Rosenbush, Harper’s

There might actually be something to this. Arana points out that women and minorities are less likely to have the financial means to toil away for free, but also, they may be less likely to be willing to work for free. It takes a certain kind of privilege to view working for free as a privilege.

Special bonus excuse: White is as white does.


“The original writing and editing batch at Slate came from elite college folks of the old [former TNR Editor] Michael Kinsley New Republic tradition, folks who work there came out of that and tended to be white and Jewish and Northeastern. That perpetuates itself—it’s hard to look for and find people who are not like you.” – Plotz

On the one hand, Arana and company deserve some credit for even bothering to care, but on the other hand, my own experience tells me that if they really cared all that much, this would not be a problem. The numbers Arana comes up with are fairly shocking, even for organizations that care nothing about diversity. With no effort at all, they ought to be able to find more diverse talent than they have.

I care a great deal about diversity, which is one of the reasons I chose to come to The Daily Banter. We have a very, very small staff, but when I was mulling the move, one-third of the site’s masthead was black and/or female, and I figured at least one of the four white males had to be gay. I still haven’t asked; maybe it’s me. I don’t imagine that this is a function of some concerted effort, but simply the natural result of what Ben Cohen values in a writer, and what I value.

The media people whose writing I enjoy are a diverse group, with disproportionately few white males, and of the dozen or so writers whom I’ve pushed for jobs over the years, none of them are. Some of that is probably a function of my own point of view, and the value I place on those that are different from mine. If you’re telling me what I already think, then it had better be really funny, or really well-written. Most of it, I believe, simply has to do with the talent and wit of the individual writers. Exactly none of it, however, is due to some special effort on my part to seek out writers who are women or minorities. Hell, the first time I ever read The Reid Report, I thought it was written by a white dude.

If your website or magazine grossly underrepresents women and minorities, it’s because you either don’t care enough, or you suck at judging talent. If any of those editors need some help in that department, they can drop me an email. I’ve got plenty of suggestions.


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  • Alan Carr

    Not a single one of those photos will load.

  • Peter O’Leary

    Should a white man really be writing this article? Isn’t that like the old says, the pot calling the kettle black?

  • Christopher Foxx

    If you can’t find a good black, female, gay writer, that’s not because black, gay, or female writers are fucking up, it’s because you are.

    At a place I worked we were frequently interviewing for new employees. Out of what must have been well over a hundred interviews for various openings, I saw exactly 5 black applicants.

    But, I suppose it’s our fault for not grabbing every black person who walked by?

    OK, hyperbolic. But your “if you don’t have enough black employees it’s entirely your fault” absolute is similarly overstated, Tommy.

    • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

      So, wait, are you saying that black applicants are doing something wrong on their end? Why would he want you to be “grabbing every black person
      who walked by”? I didn’t get that to be his point at all with that line.

      And really, if you only saw 5 black applicants, why would you think the fault is on their end? What were the positions being offered? Was the place in a racially dense area? Were there requirements for said positions that may disqualify some people? Did any of the black applicants actually get hired? Did this company have a diverse workforce already?

      I mean, I get your point, but you are making assumptions that your former place of employment (which you haven’t really described here) is the same as these media outlets. Thing is, they are built on personality and creativity, and purport themselves to be bastions of equality and diversity. It is hard to present a progressive worldview when their workplace has the same optic problem every other corporation.

      • Christopher Foxx

        I’m not thinking the fault is on anyone’s end, Vermillion. Tommy’s statement that not having a diverse enough group of employees was “entirely” the fault of the employer is ludicrous.

        Fact is, we advertised openings and less than 5% of the applicants were black. If a diversity of folks don’t apply (for whatever reason, and there could be several) I don’t see that it’s clearly and solely the employer’s fault. Tommy was way overstating that. That’s my point.

        (Now, among those reasons we didn’t get a large percentage of black applicants could be that, in the larger societal picture, blacks haven’t had the opportunities to get the somewhat specific skill sets we needed, etc. And I’ll certainly recognize there is a racial aspect central to that. But Tommy’s “If you don’t have enough minorities on staff it’s entirely your fault” takes a very narrow and erroneous view.)

        • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

          I don’t think Tommy was making a blanket statement on all employers; rather just those in the creative/entertainment/journalistic fields.

          As I understand it, getting a job in those fields aren’t as simple as putting in an application or resume. These companies regularly approach potential employees through more informal means. And i think that was what Tommy was saying: these companies can and do choose who they want to approach for writing for them, and consistently fail to bring in minority voices.

          It really wasn’t supposed to be a condemnation of the lack of diversity in EVERY industry, just this particular niche one.

          • Christopher Foxx

            Fair enough.

  • Peter James

    Don’t forget that bastion of “Liberal” Bloggism, Huffington Post.

    We really wouldn’t want them to feel left out.
    (I mean, it’s not like that’s something they do to minorities)

    Granted, they have more women, but the distinct lack of minorities is particularly striking, especially considering the fact that they’re headquartered in New York City – the most diverse city on the face of the planet.


    …..so diverse….
    I think I see off-white, bone white, pale white and even a smidgen of porcelain white.



    Even Huffington Post France – located in a very diverse European nation, seems to be learning bad lessons from the mothership:-….


  • Tom Blue

    Excellent. It’s long been glaringly obvious that journalism, and especially political journalism, is dominated by white males, and especially with a northeastern university background, and it’s been a closeknit men’s club that is it’s own little echo chamber.

    I don’t read much of the publications that you cite simply because their writing and point of view is uninteresting. they are pretty much all the same, maybe why the genre is struggling these days, eh? Boring boring boring.

    I think there is room for growth, though, on this side of the aisle. Keep up the pressure by pointing it out, time after time and eventually they get it. Defensive and embarrassed, but they get it. It’s not like the other side, where the racism and sexism is purposeful and laced with malevolence, and they profit from it.

    • Tzameti

      Undoubtedly, you don’t read these publications because they go right over your head. And if they’re struggling, it’s because of general philistinism – all of them are actually fairly highbrow and not “pretty much all the same.” I sincerely hope you’ll get it eventually…

      I’m not optimistic, though, since you think this Tommy Christopher piece was “excellent.” Really it’s just all wrong and probably merely designed to annoy these elite liberal media organizations, the people who probably care the most about minorities, and don’t care too much about appearing diverse. (I imagine Tommy Boy is bitter because none of them would hire him). Here’s the point: these editors and publishers “choose staff for what they can bring to the magazine, first and foremost,” not for cosmetics. And “We practice a fairly specialized form of journalism and the pool of people who do it isn’t terribly large to begin with, and then you look at the group of people who are practicing at a higher level and it’s just not a diverse pool” (Foer). There’s candor here, but no horseshit. And nobody suggesting that diversity and merit are incompatible. Also, nobody cares how diverse The Daily Banter is; it’s too insignificant and unserious.

      And incidentally, political journalism is especially NOT dominated by white males, but who cares about accuracy, eh?

      • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

        I imagine Tommy Boy is bitter because none of them would hire him

        “You’re just jealous”: that old sawhorse of intellectual defensiveness to self-involved people everywhere. Because nobody could possibly have a legitimate criticism without there being some desire on their part to have the same thing.

        You really had no point with the rest of your comment besides regurgitating the same bullshit excuses described above, so I just focused on the only part that didn’t put me to sleep.

        • tommychristopher

          I’m not sure why the guy wrote three paragraphs in the comments section of an “insignificant and unserious” site. Maybe he’s just bitter that those other comments sections wouldn’t have him?

      • tommychristopher

        You violated Rule #1, which would usually get you banned. I’m feeling merciful. Ask around if you don’t know what Rule #1 is, and don’t do it again.

        To your point, though, please re-read the article. Your assertion that diversity is about “cosmetics” is exactly the problem. Check out the rest of the paragraph you quoted, about merit. Tell me what’s wrong about it, I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

  • http://ramonasvoices.blogspot.com/ Ramona

    Try being a liberal Midwestern female septuagenarian.blogger. How surprised would you be if I told you those young white guys aren’t exactly beating down my door?

  • 624LC .

    Very interesting piece. I wondered why I felt alienated from some of those sites.

  • chris ellis

    interesting piece


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