Kriegman

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      Today we begin with an incredible story of a data scientist who claimed extreme bias at a major global news service: Reuters. Zac Kriegman may be one of the highest company officials to go public with such allegations. He led a team of scientists applying the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence to data at the parent company Thomson Reuters. He says he watched as radical ideologies took hold throughout the organization, and that when he saw the news division getting it wrong, he was the one who got bullied and fired.

      Reuters video: We tell all sides, but take none.

      This disturbing story begins at Reuters, a media conglomerate and news agency that reaches billions of people a day. It promises “freedom from bias."

      Reuters video: Where there is no bias and no agenda.

      But the hard truth inside Reuters was far different than the advertisements, according to Zac Kriegman, who was the company’s director of data science. Kriegman says he was subjected to a racially hostile environment, then terminated after he complained about it.

      Zac Kriegman: So, it began really when I started witnessing this sort of new racial ideology spreading throughout the company and people embracing the core tenants of the Black Lives Matter from the, you know, the senior leadership, all the way down.

      It started when Kriegman says he noticed the news division pushing a one-sided narrative in support of the Black Lives Matter core claim that police are biased toward shooting black people.

      Kriegman: And I found out that that core claim was false. What you discover is that police shoot whites disproportionately to the rate that whites murder police officers— white criminals murder police officers— and they do not shoot black suspects disproportionately to the rate at which black criminals murder police officers. In fact, they shoot substantially less black suspects than you would predict, based on the number of police officers murdered by black criminals.

      Kriegman says as a data scientist, he relied on a wide body of research, including from African American researcher Roland Fryer. The research further implied, he says, that the allegedly false storyline about police shooting blacks was actually responsible for deaths of black people.

      Kriegman: But not only that, the research also showed that that claim was driving these huge reductions in policing, which corresponded to soaring violent crime, including thousands of murders.

      Sharyl: Of black people primarily?

      Kriegman: Of primarily black people. Black Lives Matter falsehoods were driving thousands of murders, or causing thousands of murders of black people, people who would be alive today, if not for those falsehoods. So I knew that as, like, a white employee, I couldn't say anything critical about the Black Lives Matter without putting my career in jeopardy at Thomson Reuters.

      Sharyl: But isn't that a problem to begin with?

      Kriegman: Yeah, it's a huge problem. And it's not just about Black Lives Matter. There's this whole racial ideology. I think there it's highly connected. And I felt like, you know, Thomson Reuters had a public trust to be reporting truthfully, and we were failing.

      Sharyl: So you have this information, you think it's important, ethically important to the news organization, but you're worried about bringing it forward. What did you decide to do?

      Kriegman: Yeah, so I actually wrestled with this, talking it over with my wife, because I knew, you know, I could potentially lose my job, just even talking about these issues. So ultimately I decided to basically just summarize the academic research into a post that I posted on an internal forum to try to just start a discussion.

      Sharyl: What was the response you got?

      Kriegman: So, just as I had feared, the response was incredibly angry, you know, personal attacks directed at me, but also like highly racialized attacks. They told me I was confused and laughable, I was a troll, I wasn't even worth attempting to have an intelligent conversation with. They actually even compared me to a sympathizer of the Ku Klux Klan. It just got incredibly nasty, incredibly quickly.

      Kriegman says he complained to the Human Resources department at Reuters that racialized attacks against him were blocking an important discussion about the veracity of Reuters’ reporting. The result? He was fired.

      Sharyl: What did they say was your lapse?

      Kriegman: In the actual email — they fired me by email — the actual email, they said, just said, “Your conduct in recent weeks does not align with our expectations of you as a leader within the organization. So we're firing you.”

      Sharyl: You were a manager earning six figures, is that right?

      Kriegman: Yep.

      Sharyl: Had you ever been taken to task for anything with your job before?

      Kriegman: Nope. I had been working there for six years. I'd just recently gotten a huge promotion from senior data scientist to director of data science. The only thing they could say was that, you know, they didn't like my conduct in recent weeks, which consisted entirely of trying to start a discussion about how our reporting was inconsistent with the facts.

      Reuters declined our interview request, but a spokesman told us Kriegman “held no editorial position at the company” and that “Reuters reports on topics related to race and equality and the BLM organization in a fair, unbiased, and independent manner.”

      Kriegman isn’t the only one who’s called the news industry into question.

      In 2020, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss told a similar story. She quit her job, saying she faced smears and “constant bullying by colleagues” who have a woke agenda, but that the Times refused to take action on her harassment allegations.

      The Times responded, saying it’s committed to publishing viewpoints “from across the political spectrum” and “fostering honest, searching, and empathetic dialogue between colleagues.”

      A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC reporter, Tara Henley, quit her job last year, citing “a radical political agenda.” The CBC disputes her view, but Henley claimed that working at the CBC now is “to pretend that the ‘woke’ worldview is near universal — even if it is far from popular with those you know, and speak to, and interview, and read.” CBC reacted by saying it does "not apologize for broadening and deepening our journalism by bringing more voices and perspectives to our stories.”

      Other journalists have quit their jobs complaining of conservative bias, with the larger point being that many are claiming ideology rather than information is what now dominates at many of today’s most influential news organizations.

      Sharyl: So what does this story that you've told say about the news industry?

      Kriegman: I mean, it's my understanding that this same kind of like, you know, racial ideology and the bullying that goes along with it really, I think hand in hand, is prevalent throughout the news industry.

      Sharyl: What is it that you think people should know or take away from this as news consumers?

      Kriegman: You shouldn't really ever consider yourself fully informed if you're really just reading from one side of the political spectrum. It's sort of like, you know, as a lawyer or former lawyer, I think of it like our adversarial system. Like, no one would ever consider it okay for the jury to render a verdict after hearing just the prosecution or just the defense. And yet that's what we do every single day as voters, we'll read only one side from one part of the political spectrum and we'll consider ourselves informed. And I think we've got to move away from that.

      Sharyl (on-camera): Kriegman has filed a complaint over his firing with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a required step before he can move forward with a lawsuit against Reuters.