On December 1, 2022, I announced my resignation as managing editor of the Yale Daily News’ 145th Managing Board. I will cherish the friendships I’ve made, the skills I’ve been taught, and the late nights I spent at 202 York Street.
I was the third managing editor of color to resign from the organization in two years. I write to say what I have left unsaid for too long: the Oldest College Daily is experiencing a diversity crisis.
It is no secret that the News platforms certain students while leaving others out. The problem is particularly acute for Black, Latinx and Indigenous students, who are severely underrepresented among reporters, editors, and staffers compared to the student body. Asian representation at the News is broader, though significant challenges remain. Geographic and income representation beyond the wealthy students from the East Coast is frighteningly low. Despite efforts to recruit my fellow first-generation, low-income students through various initiatives, including the stipend program, the perception of the News as a place for those in the highest income brackets continues to pervade. The News has weathered a series of content controversies over the last two years; rarely has public criticism garnered any response or internal review. The newsroom has lost the trust of many students and student groups on campus, particularly those from marginalized communities.
Of 145 editors-in-chief elected in the paper’s history, 143 have been white, including 11 of the last 12. Seven of the 10 most recent presidents of the Harvard Crimson, by contrast, have been people of color. The News’ editorships at other levels also remain whiter and wealthier than the student body, although exact details are difficult to track because the 144th Board failed to produce the News’ annual demographics survey. The 145th Board has not released the results of its survey taken almost four months ago.
The problems reach beyond simple representation. Inside the News, staffers from marginalized groups struggle to be taken seriously as reporters, editors and colleagues. Their talents are regularly underestimated and undercut, their ambitions questioned and derided. They struggle to see themselves represented by elected leadership or the News’ star-studded list of alums. In some cases, they are barred from opportunities or editorships entirely. Many have been tokenized into performing additional duties related to diversity, work for which they receive little credit. Diversity initiatives that are adopted are fickle and inconsistent year-to-year, but the burden always falls on people to champion their own diversity, often without institutional support.
I am far from the first to point this out. But time after time, only vague promises are made, backed up by little action. The News has seen frighteningly little change during my time at Yale, and in many cases backtracked. I have no doubt this essay will be met with the same level of apathy, papered over with image-saving gestures.
But these issues are existential. A lack of diversity is detrimental to journalism; newspapers that do not include and value members of all backgrounds are prone to producing content that is unfair, unrepresentative, untrustworthy, and even inaccurate. In short, they fail their readers.
Underrepresentation and exclusion are certainly not limited to the News, and in fact reflect larger trends in the journalism profession. But college papers should be places for innovation and experimentation, where new ideas and voices are highlighted and appreciated quickly and more easily than in other spaces. As a pipeline to an industry that so often favors the white, wealthy and well-connected, the News has the opportunity to elevate those who are not.
But instead of leading the way, the News seems to be stuck in the past. Unprecedented turnover is now treated as commonplace, mastheads altered quietly to project stability. My departing call to be replaced by another person of color was not heeded. More troubling: this paper has still not at any point addressed the slew of resignations or meaningfully discussed its broader recruitment and retention issues.
Those passionate about these problems do not often have access to the levers of change. The leaders who do, meanwhile, choose to ignore the problem, lack the experience and knowledge necessary to address it, or worse, fail to see it entirely.
For a paper that strives to so thoroughly report on inequities on campus, and even in its past, the News too often fails to look inward and remains frighteningly ignorant of what goes on within its walls. I cannot answer why the News appears to struggle so uniquely among peers on this front. I hope the organization will one day truly take stock of its issues and look outwards for solutions.
Ultimately, as long as the newsroom and leadership remain disproportionately white and wealthy, the News will be unable to improve its standing with both readers and potential members. It is encouraging that the current class of editors is somewhat more diverse than previous boards. I am also heartened by the recent establishment of the News’ Executive Board, which seeks input from a larger group of voices, as well as the appointment of diversity, equity and inclusion co-chairs, who may help to guide content decisions and improve internal climate.
These new initiatives, however, will falter like those before them as long as leaders fail to lay out a concrete and experience-based vision for the paper’s diversity goals. It has proven insufficient for leaders to simply step aside and allow others to take on the reins and burdens of diversity work. Inconvenient as it may seem, diversity is not something to be pushed aside as a far-off, auxiliary goal, but the defining issue this institution faces. The News must be led by those who understand the crisis and are able to address it as such.
Meanwhile, students from marginalized backgrounds must come together, build solidarity and create community. For me, those bonds are what meant the most when the going got tough.
The News and journalism on campus at large have come a long way in the last decade. I am grateful to the writers and editors over many years who made it possible for me to pursue journalism, let alone exercise authority over a paper as hallowed and influential as this one.
I cannot speak to any experiences but my own, and I am certain that all students have complex and varied reasons for joining and leaving the paper. But the News cannot continue to hemorrhage its talent of color, at all levels and particularly at the top.
I hope the News does not continue to sweep these developments under the rug but seriously examines them. In my view, the paper’s long-term survival — and ability to fulfill its goals as a teaching institution and publication of service to our community — depend on it.
ISAAC YU is a junior in Berkeley College and served as managing editor of the News’ 145th Managing Board and Production & Design editor for the 144th Board. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.