After being the with Associated Press (AP) for more than 24 years, director of career development Robert Naylor Jr. announced his position was eliminated on Friday. News of his exit came only a day after the company announced a diversity initiative through its internship program. The layoff is getting attention, as the Mississippi-born journalist was also a key diversity advocate for the company. Along with Naylor, Dolores Barclay, the East Coast entertainment editor, and Andrew Fraser, the assistant Pennsylvania bureau chief, were also asked to leave. The company cited budgetary reasons behind the recent layoffs. 

From Naylor's final note to his colleagues: “I began my first reporting job in May 1978 at my hometown newspaper when newsrooms were becoming computerized. Who among us could have foreseen the changes and challenges that have occurred in the years since? I’ve had the chance to dream, try, and experience new things… I’ve been mentored and coached by some especially inspiring people. In turn, I’ve had the chance to recruit, mentor, and coach some people who are helping AP and other news organizations rise to the immense challenges that face the news industry.”

Soon after Naylor’s announcement, Gregory Lee, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, issued a statement saying, “the relentless attack on newsroom diversity continues to arise under the guise of a failing economy.” Lee plans to speak to AP executives about finding a common ground in newsrooms. Naylor plans to work with students in his future endeavors.

Has the recession given predominately White companies a free pass to drop key initiatives like diversity programs?