Photos and Story By Caroline Pierce
New York Times employees Nathalie Nieves and Natalie Shutler gave William Paterson students a rare look inside one of the world’s most revered news institutions during a visit to Dr. Nicholas Hirshon’s Research Methods class on Nov. 17.
Nieves, an index compiler at the Times who assigns tags to news stories in order to help readers search for them, called for change at a department where she said that she is the “youngest and darkest.” Nieves complained that the Times has tags for minority groups like blacks and Latinos but not for whites, giving the impression that being white is “the norm.”
Speaking to Hirshon’s students in Hobart Hall Room 143, Nieves said that she pushed for a “whites” tag but received resistance from higher-ups at the Times.
“This is not the default,” said Nieves, who is Latin-American. “That is not New York.”
Shutler, an editor for the Room for Debate blog on the Times’ website, agreed with Nieves that the Times has a lot of “institutional cobwebs.”
Shutler called for a “new way of understanding” in the newsroom.
“Journalism has been an old white guy profession,” she said, adding that news outlets need “different writers and voices.”
Nieves and Shutler said the Times must adapt to the nation’s changing racial makeup, especially in the Times’ hometown.
“We need diversity in the field,” Shutler said before a group of racially diverse students taking notes during her presentation.
She encouraged students in the audience to work for news outlets like the Times, contending they need younger, fresher and more diverse employees.
Shutler discussed the importance of women and minorities working for news outlets because they have different voices that can help tell different stories.
“That’s what communications is –telling stories,” she said.
She also advised students to “be present.”
She told them to take advantage of opportunities and not let them pass by because of self-doubt.
“You really do miss all the shots you don’t take,”Shutler said.
Nieves described applying to work at the Times and initially thinking she would not get the job.
Nieves and Shutler were the latest in a long line of professional journalists, including reporters from the Associated Press, Newsday, and Wall Street Journal, who have spoken in Hirshon’s classes this semester.
Hirshon, in his first semester teaching at William Paterson University, was formerly a reporter for the New York Daily News and freelanced for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
All students are welcome to attend the next guest-speaking event at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, when ABC News ed
itor Paul Shin, a former editor at the Daily News, will speak at Hirshon’s class in Hobart 143.
Shin recently released his first novel, “Half Life,” about a nuclear scientist in paranoid North Korea in 1997.