New York Times editor 'pleads guilty' over controversial Nairobi job ad

Monday July 8 2019

The New York Times building

The New York Times building in this photo taken on September 6, 2018. PHOTO | ANGELA WEISS | AFP 

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New York Times international editor Michael Slackman has owned up to approving a job advert for an Africa correspondent that was full of clichéd descriptions of the continent.

It talked about reporting from "the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the Horn of Africa, down through the forests of Congo and the shores of Tanzania".

The advert attracted criticism and mockery.

A video of three women mockingly reading out the text was widely shared.

New York Times advertisement.

The controversial New York Times advertisement that is still appearing on their LinkedIn account. PHOTO | COURTESY

A lot of people were also sharing one man's satirical video application where he appears to be walking through a jungle.


In a Twitter thread, Mr Slackman said the advert was the result of taking a short cut, where he just approved the text of a job description from 18 months ago.

Addressing the criticism that the advert reflected the New York Times' view of the continent, the paper's international editor said it was "committed to covering Africa, not as if it were some stereotype, but because it matters":

So will this end the criticism? While some have welcomed the apology, others are not satisfied.

A prominent Kenyan commentator wondered why the advert was allowed to go through 18 months ago without any query.

"18 months ago is not ancient history. This advert was as dodgy then as it is now," said Nanjala Nyabola on her twitter response to Mr Slackman.

Mr Slackman's attempt to seek views from journalists interested in covering Africa on how they approach the topic did not amuse cultural analyst and literary critic Dr Joyce Nyairo.

"There we go again...someone with a cheque book and with an organization’s full backing is here asking locals what they think before asking them how much their intellect, experience and networks will cost!...Hire a consultant," fired Ms Nyairo on her twitter post