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Farai has combined media, technology, and socio-political analysis during her 20-year career as an award-winning author, journalist, professor, and lecturer. She is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She was also a spring 2012 fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. She frequently …

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Since 1995, when she began appearing on cable news as an analyst for CNN, Farai Chideya has given thousands of speeches and hosted hundreds of events. Her bookings have included Ivies Harvard and Yale, large state universities and regional colleges, events at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill, and …

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An Open Letter on Diversity to Washington Post Buyer Jeff Bezos

August 6, 2013 Blog No Comments
Jeff Bezos's letter to the Post's staff

Jeff Bezos’s letter to the Post’s staff

Dear Mr. Bezos:

Congratulations on buying the Washington Post. And no, I’m not saying that while waving you off into the sunset. I hope you succeed. It will be a tall task to “invent” and “experiment” while also living by your statement that “The values of The Post do not need changing.” — all words from your letter to the employees of the Washington Post.

In 2010, the Post’s Ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote a piece titled “Newsroom diversity: Falling short could be fatal.” He stated, “All told, journalists of color comprise about 24 percent of the newsroom, comfortably above the ASNE [American Society of News Editors] census average of roughly 13 percent in recent years. But here’s the problem: Minorities are 43 percent of The Post’s circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward `majority minority’ status. For The Post, being `good on diversity’ isn’t enough.”

I agree with Alexander. As I outlined in a recent article for The Nation magazine, staffing and editorial diversity is critical for good journalism, and critical to good business decisions generally and specifically within the context of this industry. Truth-telling is not a franchise owned by any one group, and the lack of diversity undermines our ability as reporters to get to the core of important stories. When you say “The values of the Post do not need changing,” you may want to consider that some of them do. Valuing the monetary and journalistic value of diversity more greatly could be a great change in values — a critique not so much of the Post but of our industry broadly, and an issue that as a new newspaper owner should be of great interest to you.

I realize that you’ve bought The Washington Post with your personal fortune, not as an acquisition for Amazon. However, I noted that Amazon was one of the technology companies that refused to release it’s EEO-1 data: an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mandatory filing on staff diversity. While the filing is mandatory, its release is not. And although some other tech companies voluntarily released their statistics, Amazon did not. The technology industry has a deep-rooted but not intractable problem with attracting women engineers and coders (less of whom are in the pipeline to begin with), as well as racial diversity challenges. But the only way to address these issues is by recognizing them and facing them head on, not by hiding your data.

So let’s return to the newspaper industry. The Washington Post is a paper of great renown which has served to tell stories of national and international importance, and has never quite (as is true with many newspapers) done justice to coverage of the racial, cultural, and income diversity of its home region. When I lived in DC in the mid 1990s, it was called Chocolate City. Now, although the name sticks, the city is more like Neapolitan ice cream. Still, according to 2012 Census data, the District of Columbia is 50.1 percent black. The Asian- and Latino-American population in the city continues to grow. That same 2010 piece by the Post Ombudsman cites an internal report by Milton Coleman, who stated: “Already we know that we are losing black readers and not gaining Asian and Spanish-dominant readers. Immigration is driving population growth, especially throughout our increasingly important suburbs.”

Whether you are talking about local news or national reporting, there is a compelling business case for investing in diverse staffing and rewarding storytelling that goes outside the box by reaching deep into communities.

I wish you good luck. Perhaps you’ll create a model that exceeds our current low expectations for how to deliver excellent news in a fiscally responsible way. I hope so. Remember that America, and media’s potential audiences, are getting more diverse by the day. Staying in touch and in step with an evolving America is the key to political and cultural coverage; local coverage; and, I believe, to greater revenue.

Journalist since 1990: print, television, digital, radio

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Discover Magazine: The Bypass Cure

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Worth a read — this Discover Magazine article on how the Roux-en-Y bypass technique for weight loss can literally cure diabetes overnight.

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Mayor Bloomberg to Talk Climate Change

Via Politico: At 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will deliver a major speech in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard outlining the risks New York City faces from climate change and the steps the city should take to protect neighborhoods.

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Notebook: Climate Change and New York

Watch the video of this panel on climate change and Sandy. Columbia University scientist Klaus Jacob said “On a nice sunny day in the year 2100, the water level will be almost as high as it was during Sandy.”

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Consumer Culture and Freedom

Consumer culture is not freedom.

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Voter Suppression: It’s Real. Now What Do We Do About It?

Voting lines in Florida. AP/Alan Diaz via TheDailyBanter.com

“Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud,” says the Brennan Center for Justice. A new article by Roger Simon of Politico blows open GOP plans to block the vote.

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Giving Thanks 2012


A long list of gratitude for things that are both beautiful and troubling — all of them are part of our world, and our lives, our realities.

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A Hot New Musical About the Search for Home


Because the story is about a black woman and not a black archetype or stereotype, anyone who loves the art of theatre and the place where struggle meets the sublime can relate to GIRL shakes loose her skin. I don’t know when it will hit the stage next, or what major theatrical producer will step up to bankroll it, but I’ll be there.

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Should President Obama Push for Criminal Justice Reform?

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Head on over to the Columbia Journalism Review’s site to read my piece on the President and criminal justice reform. Now that the election is over, these questions are more imperative than ever.

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Why the “Foreign Policy” Debate Wasn’t One

Please go to The Root and check out my piece on why the “foreign policy” debate was nothing of the sort….

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Politically Viral: Videos to Watch

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Props to Thanh Tan for her article about the GOP Washington State gubernatorial candidate bringing it Gangnam Style; plus Sesame wants Big Bird out of Obama ad.

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