The Albany Newspaper Guild Diversity Committee has called on Times Union management to immediately issue a public and sincere apology following public outcry over the newspaper’s ad solicitation strategy for Black History Month.
Members of the Capital Region on Friday, Feb. 5, received an email from the newspaper’s advertising department about the planned Black History Month special section, offering advertising space in the section ranging in price from $875 to over $3,000.
This email was received by many Black members of our community, who found it offensive and racist. The community criticized the Times Union for exploiting Black History Month to make a profit, and for charging Black business owners exorbitant prices to place advertisements in a predominantly white newspaper during a month meant to celebrate their community’s successes and legacies.
Committee members, supported by the Guild’s Executive Board, issued a letter to Times Union executives late Tuesday condemning the company’s actions.
“Needless to say, asking Black business owners — particularly during a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted them — to buy ads for a section meant to honor them is darkly ironic, racist, tone deaf to the economic plight the community has faced due to systemic racism, and harmful to a community that our newspaper has already caused so much harm to historically,” committee members wrote. “As a predominantly white company, mistakes will be made. But when that happens, it is critical to recognize, understand and apologize for those mistakes, and take concrete action to avoid making them in the future.”
The Diversity Committee also recommended management consider the following to begin mending community relations:
- Provide free advertising for Black-owned businesses for the remainder of Black History Month.
- Provide a reparations-based, sliding-scale price model for communities of color seeking to advertise with the Times Union after the month of February.
- Donate 100 percent of profits made from the Black History Month special section to local organizations that support Black communities.
- Create a community liaison position, and fill the position with a person of color from the Capital Region, in order to have a point person who can interface with communities of color without causing further harm.
- As previously recommended by the Diversity Committee, consider candidates of color first when marketing and filling open positions.
- Hold a Company-wide meeting to transparently and honestly discuss the offensiveness of and harm done by this email with employees and managers.
The committee urged management to continue this work beyond the month of February, and noted further actions previously recommended by the Diversity Committee to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the Times Union. Those recommendations included hiring guest columnists of color; diversifying the company through more intentional recruitment strategies; and partnering with business owners of color.