The quick action and mobilization by the Albany Newspaper Guild Diversity Committee last week prompted Times Union management to issue a public response following outcry over the company’s Black History Month ad solicitation strategy.
Hours after the Guild went public Wednesday, demanding the company issue a sincere, public apology and offering several recommendations the company could consider to help repair the relationship between the news outlet and the Black community, Times Union Publisher George Hearst issued a statement apologizing for how the solicitation was received by some community members and indicated that proceeds from the special Feb. 21 edition of the paper will be donated to nonprofits that are active in the Black community.
“An email sent last week from the Times Union’s advertising department regarding an upcoming Black History Month special section elicited criticism from a number of Black-owned business owners and organizations that received it. We intended no offense, but now recognize that some members of the community found this advertising solicitation unwelcome, even inappropriate,” Hearst wrote. “For that, we apologize unreservedly.”
The letter described efforts the Times Union is making to diversify its ranks while also improving how it covers and interacts with communities of color.
While the Guild is happy to see the company quickly responded to our concerns, we understand this response does not adequately recognize, nor apologize for, the harm the solicitation caused the Capital Region’s Black community. We want to change that, and are actively engaging management to work with the Guild and its Diversity Committee to further mend that relationship. Those efforts include pressing management to consider recommendations previously made that would improve the Times Union’s relationship with communities of color. It’s important to note, these recommendations serve as a starting point for discussions, and the Guild understands there may be legal or procedural hurdles to some of these ideas:
- 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. Based on the company’s response, which ran in print on Thursday, Feb. 11, this recommendation was turned into a reality, with the Times Union’s intention to donate the proceeds to nonprofits active in the Black community.
- Create a community liaison position, and preferably 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.
We implore Times Union management to consider these additional recommendations immediately, and work with the Guild Diversity Committee on turning these innovative ideas into reality. The committee followed-up with management regarding those recommendations on Friday and awaits a response.
These recommendations build on the work previously done by the Guild Diversity Committee to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the Times Union. Other suggestions include hiring guest columnists of color; diversifying the company through more intentional recruitment strategies; and partnering with business owners of color.