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The online post Slate has suspended a well-known podcast host after debating with colleagues whether people who are not black should be able to cite a racial insult in certain contexts.

Mike Pesca, the host of “The Gist,” a news and culture podcast, said in an interview that he was suspended indefinitely on Monday after defending the use of insult in certain contexts. He made his point during a conversation last week with colleagues on cross-service messaging platform Slack.

In a long thread of posts, Slate staff members discussed the resignation of Donald G. McNeil Jr., a reporter who said this month he was resigning from the New York Times after using the insult to ‘a discussion of racism while he was working. as a guide during a student trip in 2019.

Mr Pesca, who is white, said he believed there were contexts in which the insult could be used, according to screenshots from the Slack conversation that were shared with The Times. Slate chief executive Dan Check stepped in to end the discussion.

Slate spokesperson Katie Rayford confirmed “The Gist” has been suspended indefinitely, pending an investigation, but declined to comment on Mr Pesca. “While I cannot go into specific allegations that are under investigation,” Ms. Rayford said, “I can confirm that this was not a decision based on an isolated abstract argument in a Slack channel . “

Defector Media, a digital media focused on sports and culture, earlier reported on Mr Pesca’s suspension and the internal debate at Slate.

In November 2019, Slate introduced a policy requiring podcast hosts and producers to discuss the use of racist terms in a pending episode, in or out of cited material, before recording it.

Mr Pesca explored the argument for using the insult in a 2019 podcast about a black security guard being fired for using it. In an early version of the episode, Mr. Pesca said, he used the term when quoting the man. After consulting with his producers and supervisor, who objected to his insult quote, he re-recorded the episode without her, he said.

“The version of the story with the offensive word has never been released, and that’s how I think the editorial process should go,” Pesca said in the interview.

No action was taken against him after a human resources investigation into his insult quote, Pesca said. He said he apologized to the producers involved.

Mr Pesca said Mr Check, the managing director, and Jared Hohlt, the editor-in-chief of Slate, brought up the previous case of his quote from the insult when they spoke with him after the Slack conversation. He added that they had mentioned another example of his use of the term that he could not remember.

Mr Pesca, whose interview style sometimes seemed to embody Slate’s brand against the grain, said on Friday he was told he would be suspended for a week without pay. On Monday, he was informed that the suspension was indefinite and that he would either have to accept severance pay or be investigated, he said.

Mr Pesca, who worked at Slate for seven years, said he had the ‘queasy feeling’ of hurting his colleagues, but added: ‘I hate the idea of ​​things that escape debate and things that cannot be said.

Jacob Weisberg, former chairman and editor-in-chief of Slate, who left the company for podcast start-up Pushkin in 2018, called Mr. Pesca “a great talent and an impartial journalist.”

“I don’t think he’s done anything that deserves discipline or consequences, and I think it’s an example of a kind of overreaction and a lack of judgment and perspective that is spreading unfortunately, ”Weisberg said.

Joel Anderson, a black staff member at Slate who hosted the third season of the “Slow Burn” podcast, disagreed. “For black employees, it is a very small request not to hear this particular insult and not to have a debate as to whether it is acceptable for white employees to use this particular insult,” he said. he declares.


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