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“This shit is just embarrassing”: The New Yorker’s archive editor breaks down the print mag’s dismal diversity stats » Nieman Journalism Lab


Prestige magazines are so white, “their mastheads resemble member registries at Southern country clubs circa 1950,” Erin Overbey, The New Yorker’s archive editor, tweeted on Tuesday. To prove it, she was armed with 96 years’ worth of data from her own employer — circumventing the notion that a diversity audit has to come from the top.

So let’s go ahead & delve into some of the diversity stats (all public) for @NewYorker mag…

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) September 14, 2021

From 1990-2020, @NewYorker mag published only 7 Book reviews by Latino writers and 12 book reviews by Asian-Americans. Less than 1% of the book reviews @NewYorker has published are by Indian-Americans. Only 28% of all print book reviews are by women.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) September 14, 2021

And there were actually more Profiles written by women in the first decade of @NewYorker’s existence (1925-1935) than there were published by women from 1990-2000. From 1925-1935, 26 women wrote 64 Profiles; from 1990-2000, 18 women wrote 29 Profiles.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) September 14, 2021

The stats keep coming. (Disclosure: My father, who is white, is a New Yorker staff writer.)

By the way, all of this information is public & anyone who wishes to can do their own research into the data. I encourage everyone to explore the @NewYorker’s diversity ratios, as well as those of other influential publications.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) September 14, 2021

Collecting the data was a painstaking process that took months, Overbey — who on Monday tweeted about pay discrepancies at the magazine — told me via Twitter DM. She’d noticed that the same white writers and critics — “terrific writers that I like and admire but, still, primarily white” — kept appearing in the magazine’s tables of contents. “I started going back year by year via the TOCs. Many of the [writers of color] I already knew, but I Google image–searched every single writer I wasn’t sure of, to make sure I wasn’t missing a writer or critic of color. I have the breakdowns for pretty much every rubric at the magazine. And then I compiled that into a larger data group of what we call fact or feature pieces and critics pieces.”

Most, but not all, of this data is technically public. A reader could go through The New Yorker’s back issues on their own. Data on who edited pieces, however, is internal, and The New Yorker does not publish its masthead. Overbey told me that since her focus was on feature nonfiction and criticism “and those are only edited by senior editors — criticism can sometimes can be edited by a more junior editor but typically in conjunction with a senior editor — it was easy to track that since there have been so few.”

A New Yorker spokesperson said in a statement:

“We’ve worked hard for years to increase the number of underrepresented voices at The New Yorker, and we’ve made significant progress—among our writers, in senior editorial positions, and across the entire enterprise. Nearly 40% of new hires at Condé Nast are from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. While we don’t believe these tweets present a full or fair view of The New Yorker and its ongoing efforts, there is always more work to do, and we look forward to doing it.”

Michael Luo, the editor of, said that hiring of a diverse group of editors and writers has been prioritized in recent years, especially on the digital side:

We’ve more than doubled the size of the digital operation at the magazine since I came aboard in 2016, and the percentage of POC hires has been very, very high.

— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) September 14, 2021

Many prominent writers and editors of color cheered on Overbey’s effort, including Dodai Stewart, Doreen St. Félix, Josie Duffy Rice, Porochista Khakpour, and Min Jin Lee. (A couple folks pointed out that Overbey’s analysis excludes theater reviews and therefore Hilton Als, The New Yorker’s long-time theater critic, who is Black.)

In the minority, in terms of public reaction, was Joyce Carol Oates, the 83-year-old novelist whose fiction and poetry have long appeared in the print magazine and whose side hustle is acting like an asshole/possibly performance art-ing (??) on Twitter.

the New Yorker has been a model of diversity & originality, indeed. it is perhaps most remarkable in its evolution over the decades while its cartoons remain near-unchanged in their gentle, wry humor. but –dissatisfaction w/ magazines should inspire others to start their own.

— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) September 14, 2021

Yes just start your own magazine—separate from the existing ones but equal to them, as it were

— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) September 14, 2021

Changing the status quo, Overbey said, is what she’s trying to do.

“White people, who really have no risk factor here except inconvenience and discomfort, have to actively step up and start raising these issues,” she told me, “not just once but over and over again until the needle finally starts to move on this.”

This thread is remarkable – in part because typically black and brown journalists are the ones forced to speak up here. Can’t imagine statistics at any of the major journalistic institutions would look much better…

— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) September 14, 2021

— Adriana Lacy (@Adriana_Lacy) September 14, 2021

This content was originally published here.

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