One can see a time, at least at The [New York] Times, when anyone expressing a conservative point of view will also have to resign, or not bother applying in the first place--and the paper of record, such that it is now, only publishes one point of view. The better to keep the newsroom off its back.
editorial, June 9
After editors at The New York Times ran the Tom Cotton op-ed last month, but before anybody lost a job over it, a writer for that opinion section said there was a "civil war" brewing inside the paper of record. The writer's name is Bari Weiss, and she noted that when it comes to the paper that publishes all the news that's fit to print, some of the older folks still emphasized the word "all," and a lot of the younger folks emphasized the word "fit."
Ms. Weiss can't exactly be called a rip-roaring conservative. A brief review of her work shows her to feature a lot of columns on Jewish and Israeli subjects; she recently wrote a piece with the subhead "Andrew Yang is showing what healthy populism looks like"; and she writes a lot on American culture. It's a living.
Or it was. She walked away from The Times last week, saying she had been bullied for "Wrongthink" and had been called a "Nazi" and a "racist."
"Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery," Ms. Weiss wrote in her resignation letter. "Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity--let alone risk-taking--is now a liability at The Times.
"Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold, only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4,000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm."
She said Twitter is not on the Times' masthead, but Twitter has become its "ultimate editor." The entire letter can be found at her website and this link: https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter
Once upon a time, newspapers, especially in the South, stood up to the mob. Subscribers might cancel their papers after a pro-Civil Rights story or opinion, but the paper stood firm. Editorials endorsed the best candidate for office, no matter the popularity of the candidate. And a variety of opinion could be found on the op-ed pages, no matter the political views of those reporters and editors in the newsroom.
This used to not just be common practice, but common sense. But maybe there are too many journalists getting their job training at places like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post these days. They may not have studied, or remember, the standards taught in the best journalism schools.
But Bari Weiss struck a chord with this statement: "A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper; that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else."
Indeed, as The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette puts it in our core values every day (on page 2A): "Journalists' role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they belive to be the truth."
The New York Times, for all our teasing over the years, is important. One of the most important papers in the world. With so many local and regional newspapers struggling financially, what if Americans end up with only national newspapers?
And what if the most important one doesn't allow dissent, debate or disagreement?
That would not just be a problem for readers in this country, but for our very democracy.