New York Times obituaries editor Bill McDonald said “I understand the complaint” that the Times publishes far more obituaries of men than women. “But I don’t accept the notion that the predominance of men on our pages is a reflection of sexism or male insensitivity or any other kind of ingrained bias on the part of the obituaries editors, as Margaret Sullivan and others imply.”
Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, wrote Monday that “Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective. It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”
In an email, McDonald wrote, “I would submit that it’s a reflection of social history.”
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Our mission is to note the deaths and explore the lives of people of one of two (or more) generations removed who essentially made news or reached a level of fame or achieved something that had wide impact. That’s a high bar. That said, we actually make an effort to reflect more diversity on our pages, within that standard of newsworthiness. The fact remains, though, that women and minorities of past generations were not allowed much of a chance to move and shake the world — and to have their obituaries appear one day in The New York Times.