“Times Change — In the Trump years, the New York Times became less dispassionate and more crusading, sparking a raw debate over the paper’s future.” That was the provocative headlines over an expose by New York magazine contributing editor Reeves Wiedeman, posted on the magazine’s website Monday morning and causing a stir online. The accompanying artwork has a fitting Communist feel, portraying a clenched fist against a red background.
The paper is doing very well in the Trump era; the company’s stock price quadrupled, and subscriptions rose from 3 million to 7 million. So much for Trump’s scary war on the press. But the Times is still revolting in more ways than one, as Wiedeman’s deeply embarrassing presentation shows.
Wiedeman laid out the struggle of the “liberal” Times (yes, he said the L-word) caught between its traditional liberal reporting staff and the rising woke generation of young tech-savvy leftists. Missing from the discussion are centrist voices, much less conservative ones, who have been driven out, like Bari Weiss, who upon her resignation from the opinion page claimed there was a “civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes [and] the (mostly 40+) liberals.”
HIs story fed off the Times’ Slack channel (an internal chatroom), created after the newsroom was traumatized by encountering an opposing view point: Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas’s Times’ op-ed calling for deploying the military to quell rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death, although Wiedeman misleadingly asserted Cotton wanted the military to quell the “protests” themselves.
Times employees responded by whining en masse on Twitter that “Running this puts Black @nytimes staffers in danger.” (It didn’t.)
While there has been a shift toward aggressive rhetoric (“liar, liar!”) under Trump, the paper’s reporting has long been obviously liberal.
It was also a shattering departure for Times journalists to walk into the newsroom after Trump’s 2016 victory and find their colleagues in tears. A neutral objectivity had long been core to the way the paper saw itself, its public mission, and its business….In 2004, the paper’s first public editor, Daniel Okrent, answered the headline above one of his columns — “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” — in the first sentence of his story: “Of course it is.”
A Pew poll found that 91 percent of people who consider the Times their primary news source identify as Democrats, roughly the same as the percentage of Fox News viewers who identify as Republicans….
Opinion editor James Bennet paid the price of staffers’ cowardly opposition to free inquiry and resigned under pressure just four days later.
Wiedeman mentioned the embarrassing hypocrisy of the paper running a column by a Chinese government official after going into hysterics about a law-and-order piece from a U.S. Senator. But he found excuses:
….The #newsroom-feedback channel lit up briefly, but the conversation was muted. “The China op-ed didn’t hit home because everyone is exhausted,” one Times reporter told me. “You can’t be mad all the time.”
That’s lame, and shows how phony the original temper tantrum over Cotton really was.
Wiedeman unearthed a funny anecdote from an anonymous columnist’s exchange with Times’ publisher A.G. Sulzberger: “As long as Twitter is editing this bitch, you cannot promise me anything.”
(“Editing this bitch”? Maybe it wasn’t Ross Douthat, then?)
Some troublesome reporters are receiving “extra care” for their copy, which seems code for ideological boundary patrol.
The Times was trying to handle various topics with extra care. Several reporters pointed me to an unusual arrangement in which Carolyn Ryan, one of the paper’s four deputy managing editors, was now editing a trio of reporters that Times journalist described as sharing an impulse toward “poking the bear.”
Michael Powell, no conservative, engaged in wrong-think by being in favor of publishing the Cotton op-ed and for writing a story about liberal hypocrisy around possible coronavirus spread at BLM protests. Also:
Ryan was also editing a few stories written by Nellie Bowles…who had veered off her beat this summer to report several pieces that complicated the progressive narrative about the Black Lives Matter protests. One took a critical look at the police-free autonomous zone activists had established in Seattle, and the other followed a group of masked, mostly white protesters who may or may not have been antifa members protesting in suburban Portland. Some of Bowles’s colleagues looked at her reporting skeptically, in part, they told me, because of her relationship with Bari Weiss. The accusation was that Bowles’s reporting had become tinged with her partner’s ideology….
It’s no surprise that liberal Times “reporters” didn’t appreciate Bowles’ committing actual street-level journalism on rioting and violence among the so-called anti-police brutality protesters in Portland and Seattle.
The Times had become the paper of the resistance, whether or not it wanted the distinction. The months ahead will determine whether it can again become the paper of record.