May 30, 2024

New York Times reporters are circulating a draft of an open letter to Joe Kahn, criticizing the paper’s top editor over comments they said were dismissive of young reporters.

In a series of recent interviews with outlets including Semafor and The Wall Street Journal, Kahn weighed in on President Joe Biden’s criticism of the Times’ reporting on his administration and campaign.

But the executive editor also raised what he saw as some of the challenges of hiring younger journalists, who he said are not “fully prepared for what we are asking our people to do, which is to commit themselves to the idea of independent journalism.”

“Young adults who are coming up through the education system are less accustomed to this sort of open debate, this sort of robust exchange of views around issues they feel strongly about may have been the case in the past,” Kahn told the Journal.

Expanding on the comments, he told Semafor that the newsroom was “not a safe space.”

In a draft note shared with Semafor, staff said Kahn’s comments were “broad generalizations that reflect a poor understanding of the people who make up your newsroom.” Further, staff said that they felt that there were actually fewer opportunities for an exchange of ideas, and argued that a diverse pool of perspectives was “needed to protect not just the independence but also the empathy of our journalism.”

“Instead of engaging in robust exchange, we are increasingly discouraged from speaking up at all,” staff wrote. “We are told that it is only appropriate to express concerns or even earnest questions in one-on-one conversations with people who outrank us.”

The letter continued: “Far from open mindedness, this policy communicates the opposite: an unwillingness to tolerate dissent. Your staff is not full of activists trying to impose their views on the report. Rather than tribalism or ideology, those who voice concerns do so in the interest of accuracy and fairness — to make The New York Times into the best version of itself.”