‘Insular, privileged & white af’: New Yorker editor fired after reporting alleged inequity

‘Insular, privileged & white af’: New Yorker editor fired after reporting alleged inequity

An archive editor with The New Yorker said in a viral Twitter thread posted Monday that she was fired by the weekly magazine after reporting instances of gender pay inequity and a lack of diversity at the company. Erin Overbey tweeted that she was speaking to the outlet’s union group about filing a grievance over her suspiciously timed termination. Her firing went into effect immediately and, according to Overbey, was based on a performance review alleging “disrespect” and “factual inaccuracies” in her work. But the timing of that review, and the swiftness of her termination, were suspect. 

“The email I sent reiterating my concerns about gender inequality in the workplace was sent on June 14th,” Overbey tweeted. “I was put under a performance review on Friday, June 17th.”

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She went on to detail alleged offense after offense she encountered researching company data on diversity, starting in 2019.

In her research, Overbey said she learned no Black editors were employed with The New Yorker for feature pieces and, therefore, “almost none of the magazine’s long-form feature pieces—those sent up for Pulitzers, etc.—had been edited by a Black editor in nearly 15 years.” She said of a bargaining session in May 2021 that an outside proxy for the magazine admitted to viewing “diverse hires” as “taking longer” and “separate from ‘the right hire.’”

The New Yorker, which is owned by the media company Condé Nast, didn’t get into the specifics of Overbey’s claims, but a Condé Nast spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Daily Kos that it “prides itself on professionalism, accuracy, and adherence to the highest journalistic standards.”

“False allegations that malign our journalistic integrity and that attack colleagues are inappropriate and unacceptable in our workplace,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

Overbey, however, provided receipts.

In May of 2021, I grew even more concerned. I learned that, during a union bargaining session w/the company, “diverse hires” were referred to by an outside proxy as “taking longer” & that it was asserted that “a diverse hire” is separate from “the right hire.” pic.twitter.com/5cPDBWtOjE

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) July 25, 2022

“I also wrote myself a note about this incident (intending to send it to management), but since the @NewYorker had taken to referring to my concerns about equality & inclusivity as ‘baseless accusations,’ I sent it to myself instead (time-stamped),” she tweeted.

So began a diversity thread Overbey conceived in July 2021.

She said that same summer, she sent management a note after learning a male archive editor employed before her earned 20% more money than she was making, though he didn’t meet the minimum qualifications for the job.

“In fact, he possessed no prior background in archival work before he was hired to run the Archive Dept at the @NewYorker,” Overbey tweeted. She said she had about 17 years of archive experience.

In fact, he possessed no prior background in archival work before he was hired to run the Archive Dept at the @NewYorker. We both applied for the job at the same time & I had ~ 17 yrs worth of archive experience. (I detailed a part of this in my salary thread this past March.)

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) July 25, 2022

When she again took her concerns to the company, Overbey said she cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a federal statute that prohibits sex-based wage discrimination while also preventing employers from correcting the problem by bringing the higher-paid worker’s wages down.

“This appeared to anger them intensely; but I kept pressing the issue,” she said. “Subsequently, in August of last year, I sent an email to management asking to work with a different editor due to editorial style & the sense that another editor who understood Classics would be a better fit.”

Overbey added:

The editor I asked to have removed—and who was then informed of my request—is the same editor who has included all of the so-called “factual inaccuracies,” allegations of “disrespect,” etc., in my recent performance review. A review then used, in part, to justify my termination.

Overbey said she was also hit with an allegation of “self-plagiarism” or reusing her own work, specifically a quote for a newsletter.

A year later, in 2021, I wrote ~5 lines in a Sunday reading post about a collection of magazine food pieces that referenced this piece, used the same quote, and also used similar lines that had appeared in the Classics newsletter a year prior.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) July 25, 2022

“Classics newsletters are never published on the site; they are sent in newsletter format only. But fair enough; the point is taken, and it has never been repeated in any of my archive newsletters ever again,” Overbey wrote. “But it did give them a weapon to use against me, and I think, for a time, they thought that would shut me up. And I understand that thinking.”

What can’t be disputed, however, are the facts as I have presented them—since I have the documentation, screen shots & emails to back everything up.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) July 25, 2022

The New Yorker Union, along with those representing other employees with Condé Nast media companies Pitchfork and Ars Technica, approved a strike on March 26, 2021, supported by 98% of members in the three bargaining units.  Hannah Aizenman, a poetry coordinator at The New Yorker and the union’s secretary at the time, said in a YouTube video that the union found pay disparities across gender and race. “We found that women are paid less than their male colleagues,” she said. “We found that women of color are paid less than white women and men. We also found disparities across platforms, print and web.

“And we found the loyalty penalty, where people work here for years and decades and don’t see their wages increase.”

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The unions were ultimately able to reach an agreement with management last June, earning at least half their workers wage increases of more than 10%. Some workers got an increase of up to 63%, and some longer-serving employees got added salary increases, according to The New Yorker Union.

Overbey’s general synopsis even after her termination was that the company is “in many ways, a wonderful institution.”

“But it’s also ground zero for a kind of regressive literary gatekeeping, class exclusivity & old-school cultural thinking that simply no longer have any relation to, or frankly relevance in, the modern world as we know it,” she added. “Legacy media in 2022 has proven that it’s incapable of accurately reflecting the world that it covers when its own industry is comprised primarily of white employees from privileged backgrounds. Period.”

Overbey called for companies to “throw the gates wide open.”

“The only bubbles that you’ll be bursting are your own—and they’re insular, privileged & white af,” she tweeted. “You’re not protecting a long-standing prestigious ‘journalistic legacy.’ You’re teaching a new generation exactly how to become dinosaurs.”

So throw the gates wide open. The only bubbles that you’ll be bursting are your own—and they’re insular, privileged & white af. You’re not protecting a long-standing prestigious “journalistic legacy” You’re teaching a new generation exactly how to become dinosaurs.

— Erin Overbey (@erinoverbey) July 25, 2022

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