‘No woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times’

In a 1994 interview, Eileen Shanahan — the first female reporter in the New York Times Washington bureau — recalled her 1961 job interview with Clifton Daniel, who was managing editor at the time.

He asked me at one point in the interview what my ultimate goal was. Well, I had wanted to be an editor ever since i was an editor at my college paper. …But i had sense enough not to say it.

I said, “Oh, Mr. Daniels, all I want to be is the best reporter and you can’t be the best reporter unless you’re at the best newspaper, and that’s the New York Times.”

He replied, “That’s good, because I can assure you that no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.” The year is 1961. it wasn’t illegal. People said things like that in those days. The law of course that made it illegal to say things like that was passed in ’64, but it didn’t begin to be litigated until the early ’70s. So that’s the way it was.

Shanahan died in 2001. (Daniel died a year earlier.) The Times obituary notes that she “left The Times in anger in 1977 after she found that, although she was regarded as one of the leading reporters in the Washington bureau, her salary ranked halfway down the list …Every reporter who was paid more was a man.”
> Breakthrough at the Times was decades in the making

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  • Lynda McDaniel

    Joe, Great article–and great to read some of your writing. I started working in the 1970s, and things were still this bad. I was required to serve coffee and clean break rooms–and I was laughed at when I told them I wanted to write. Well, I showed ‘em, but it was a long slog. Maybe that’s why, in part, I found you such a courteous and supportive editor. Many thanks and best wishes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacqueline-Cutler/100000614923928 Jacqueline Cutler

    How wonderful just to see Eileen Shanahan quoted. She was a magnificent editor. And I was lucky enough to write a long magazine piece for her in 1988. We never met, but she called, assigned an in-depth piece on a progressive legislator and offered me more money than I had ever earned for one article. (Sadly, I think that may remain my record.)

    Her wit and intelligence were so inspiring, and I wanted to impress her. I kept polishing the piece and would type it from beginning to end.

    This was before computers. While banging it out on a manual, working at a friend’s cabin on a lake in the Berkshires, a man walked by. I swear he said, “Now that’s a dedicated secretary.” 

    I disavowed him of this notion and explained, less than patiently, that some of us were doing other jobs by 1988.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    That is a thoughtful and important reminder, Mark. Thanks for posting it. –Julie

  • http://www.facebook.com/markkellner Mark A. Kellner

    Without apologizing or ignoring his remark, let’s remember (a) Clifton Daniel’s remark was made in a far different era and that (b) he was an excellent newsroom leader who was married, happily and throughout his life, to a very independent woman who achieved her own measure of writing success, Margaret Truman, the late President’s daughter. I could easily imagine that, by the end of his life, Mr. Daniel would have held a vastly different view of women in the newsroom.

  • Anonymous

    At a college career day for journalists, I was told by an editor at The Blade in Toledo I’d never get hired in the newsroom, based on the color of my skin. (I’m white.)

    This was 1995.

    I’m not kidding.

    He told me something like, “Yeah, we looked around the newsroom and saw a bunch of old, white guys. We’re just not hiring whites.” He said this with a straight face.

    Racism is an equal-opportunity disease.