New Yorker editor fired after reporting alleged inequity

New Yorker editor fired after reporting alleged inequity

July 27, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

She went on to detail alleged offense after offense she encountered researching company data on diversity, starting in 2019.

In her research, Overbey said she learned no Black editors were employed with The New Yorker for feature pieces and, therefore, “almost none of the magazine’s long-form feature pieces—those sent up for Pulitzers, etc.—had been edited by a Black editor in nearly 15 years.” She said of a bargaining session in May 2021 that an outside proxy for the magazine admitted to viewing “diverse hires” as “taking longer” and “separate from ‘the right hire.’”

The New Yorker, which is owned by the media company Condé Nast, didn’t get into the specifics of Overbey’s claims, but a Condé Nast spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Daily Kos that it “prides itself on professionalism, accuracy, and adherence to the highest journalistic standards.”

“False allegations that malign our journalistic integrity and that attack colleagues are inappropriate and unacceptable in our workplace,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

Overbey, however, provided receipts.

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“I also wrote myself a note about this incident (intending to send it to management), but since the @NewYorker had taken to referring to my concerns about equality & inclusivity as ‘baseless accusations,’ I sent it to myself instead (time-stamped),” she tweeted.

So began a diversity thread Overbey conceived in July 2021.

She said that same summer, she sent management a note after learning a male archive editor employed before her earned 20% more money than she was making, though he didn’t meet the minimum qualifications for the job.

“In fact, he possessed no prior background in archival work before he was hired to run the Archive Dept at the @NewYorker,” Overbey tweeted. She said she had about 17 years of archive experience.

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When she again took her concerns to the company, Overbey said she cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a federal statute that prohibits sex-based wage discrimination while also preventing employers from correcting the problem by bringing the higher-paid worker’s wages down.

“This appeared to anger them intensely; but I kept pressing the issue,” she said. “Subsequently, in August of last year, I sent an email to management asking to work with a different editor due to editorial style & the sense that another editor who understood Classics would be a better fit.”

Overbey added:

The editor I asked to have removed—and who was then informed of my request—is the same editor who has included all of the so-called “factual inaccuracies,” allegations of “disrespect,” etc., in my recent performance review. A review then used, in part, to justify my termination.

Overbey said she was also hit with an allegation of “self-plagiarism” or reusing her own work, specifically a quote for a newsletter.

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“Classics newsletters are never published on the site; they are sent in newsletter format only. But fair enough; the point is taken, and it has never been repeated in any of my archive newsletters ever again,” Overbey wrote. “But it did give them a weapon to use against me, and I think, for a time, they thought that would shut me up. And I understand that thinking.”

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The New Yorker Union, along with those representing other employees with Condé Nast media companies Pitchfork and Ars Technica, approved a strike on March 26, 2021, supported by 98% of members in the three bargaining units.  Hannah Aizenman, a poetry coordinator at The New Yorker and the union’s secretary at the time, said in a YouTube video that the union found pay disparities across gender and race. “We found that women are paid less than their male colleagues,” she said. “We found that women of color are paid less than white women and men. We also found disparities across platforms, print and web.

“And we found the loyalty penalty, where people work here for years and decades and don’t see their wages increase.”

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The unions were ultimately able to reach an agreement with management last June, earning at least half their workers wage increases of more than 10%. Some workers got an increase of up to 63%, and some longer-serving employees got added salary increases, according to The New Yorker Union.

Overbey’s general synopsis even after her termination was that the company is “in many ways, a wonderful institution.”

But it’s also ground zero for a kind of regressive literary gatekeeping, class exclusivity & old-school cultural thinking that simply no longer have any relation to, or frankly relevance in, the modern world as we know it,” she added. “Legacy media in 2022 has proven that it’s incapable of accurately reflecting the world that it covers when its own industry is comprised primarily of white employees from privileged backgrounds. Period.”

Overbey called for companies to “throw the gates wide open.”

The only bubbles that you’ll be bursting are your own—and they’re insular, privileged & white af,” she tweeted. “You’re not protecting a long-standing prestigious ‘journalistic legacy.’ You’re teaching a new generation exactly how to become dinosaurs.”

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