There's another problem newspapers must face: the impact on coverage when the publishers and owners of newspapers sign on to the spreading ideology of "diversity." Times publisher Sulzberger talks constantly about his paper's deep and enduring commitment to diversity and once made the preposterous statement that "diversity is the single most important issue" facing the Times.
Diversity, which has morphed into a quasi-religious civic ideology, is a broad belief system, one that Times reporters and editors can't examine with ordinary journalistic skepticism. As author Peter Wood writes in his new book, Diversity: the Invention of a Concept, the diversity movement is an attempt to alter the root assumptions on which American society is based, chiefly by downgrading individual merit and common standards in favor of separatism and group rights. In other words, diversity is a political position, not just a feel-good term or a call for hiring more minorities.
By committing itself so strongly to one side of the argument over diversity, the Times undermines its mission to present news disinterestedly. One black reporter said at the Times' mass meeting that there are two important views on race among whites in the Times newsroom, Upper West Side liberalism and Southern guilt. She has a point about the white liberal monoculture of the Times. It is hard for staffers to buck the paper's ever-hardening party line on racial issues, built around affirmative action, group representation and government intervention.
Reporters do not thrive by resisting the deeply held views of their publisher and editor (in this case, Sulzberger and Alabama-born, lifelong racial penitent Howell Raines). When opinionated publishers are heavily committed to any cause, the staff usually responds by avoiding coverage that casts that cause in a bad light. Credibility fades. It's happening at the Times now, and at other papers, too.