There is the word. And then there is Twitter.
An interview with Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg and executive editor Adrienne LaFrance in Nieman Lab about the 162-year-old publication’s efforts to include more women in its ranks exploded on Twitter, after Goldberg opined on the difficulty of finding women who could write 10,000-word cover stories.
At once, Goldberg was blasted for seeming to imply that the problem lay in the talent pool. As he was quoted in the article:“It’s really, really hard to write a 10,000-word cover story. There are not a lot of journalists in America who can do it. The journalists in America who do it are almost exclusively white males.”
(According to Nieman, 11 of the last 15 cover stories published since January 2018 were written by men.) Goldberg’s comments seemed to rehash the age-old trope about the dearth of qualified women.
Twitter was not amused.
As the controversy boiled over, Goldberg took to Twitter to suggest that he’d been misquoted and that the magazine had asked for a correction.
Laura Hazard Owen, the Nieman Lab deputy editor who conducted the interview, fired back, saying Goldberg was not misquoted and that she had recorded the conversation.
Hazard Owen told The Times that Goldberg had neither reached out to her directly nor asked for a correction. According to Hazard Owen, a press representative from The Atlantic contacted her to say that she thought Goldberg had “misspoken,” but did not ask for a correction. Goldberg and a representative for The Atlantic declined to comment; the representative referred us to Goldberg’s tweets.
Meanwhile, Twitter threads continued to fester, asking whether Goldberg had indeed been misquoted.
By late afternoon, Goldberg’s position appeared to shift. On Twitter he clarified, saying,
“Re: That @NiemanReports interview: I was trying to explain (and obviously failed to explain) that white males dominate cover-story writing because they’ve had all the opportunities. We’re trying to change that at @TheAtlantic.”
The Nieman article cited that 17% of the magazine’s editorial leadership in 2016 was women. Three years later, that number has swelled to 63%.
While Hazard Owen said she hopes that Goldberg will publicly state that he wasn’t misquoted, she feels the criticism of the interview is largely unfair and suggests people read the entire article.
“I believe he spoke to me in good faith and they are doing good work in diversifying the staff there. I didn’t write this piece as a hit piece or a take down,” she said.