Earlier this month the NY Times pushed out longtime science writer named Donald McNeil Jr. after it came to light that McNeil had used the n-word during a NY Times’ sponsored student trip to Peru. In a statement released after his resignation, McNeil clarified that he’d been asked by a student on the trip if another student should have been disciplined for using the n-word. McNeil asked what the context was, i.e. was the student quoting a rap song or were they using the word as a slur. And in asking the question about context, McNeil used the word.
McNeill was disciplined at the time in 2019 but executive editor Dean Baquet (who is black) decided there was no malice in his use of the word and declined to fire him. But things changed when the 2019 incident leaked to the Daily Beast this month. As word spread, 150 Times’ staffers demanded a new investigation and suggested employees were unsafe working around McNeil. This became a big media story for several days earlier this month.
The fallout from this incident continues to impact people. A writer at Slate has been suspended indefinitely for arguing on the company’s internal messaging system that McNeil shouldn’t have been pushed out because his use of the word was not a slur.