“You may have seen the announcement of our new initiatives focused on race, ethnicity and identity,” Mr. Baron wrote to Ms. Hilton.
Ms. Hilton was not interested.
“I have seen over the years that diversity roles, particularly for black women, are the fastest way to be sidelined out of the most important conversations about coverage and hiring,” she wrote back. “The moniker lets other managers think the work of improving representation and newsroom culture doesn’t fall on them.”
Mr. Barr, one of the managing editors, said the job would, in fact, focus on coverage, even if it might not involve directly managing reporters. “This is a job that brings together the journalism and the leadership of the room,” he said.
That new editor will face questions about identity and journalism that extend beyond race. Two Post employees said editors had barred a Post reporter who publicly accused another journalist of sexual assault, Felicia Sonmez, from writing about the subject, citing the appearance of conflict of interest in her public comments. But it’s hard to imagine reporters are expected to be neutral on the issue of sexual assault — and the decision seems almost a caricature of the old idea that only people imagined to have no stake in an issue, often white men, can cover it.
It can, in this fraught moment, be difficult to untangle the forces driving the arguments about newsroom culture, objectivity and fairness. There are, no doubt, real disagreements around the issue of how much journalists’ opinions, identities and experiences should shape coverage and be shared with their audience, and when “objectivity” simply means a dominant point of view.
But one clear strain in the tensions at The Post is simply, and sometimes hilariously, generational. In the happier times of early January 2020, the writer Maura Judkis blew up the internet with the article “People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds.” It featured irresistible testimonials from people who described watching the film of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical while on marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms or other substances, such as: “The most terrifying experience of my life. I swear to God my soul escaped me.”
Mr. Baron, who had not seen the piece before it was published, erupted, two Post employees said, furious that the story was “glorifying recreational drug use,” one of them said.