Guy Farmer: Censorship at The New York Times
When I was studying journalism at the University of Washington in Seattle many years ago, we tried to emulate the New York Times, which was the gold standard in American journalism at that time. But not any more.
I’m sad to tell you today that a once-great national newspaper has succumbed to the wave of political correctness sweeping across newsrooms in our country. When Times Opinion Editor Bari Weiss, who describes herself as a political moderate, resigned earlier this month she fired off an angry letter to Publisher A.G. Sulzberger accusing young “woke” journalists of bullying her out of the newsroom.
“I’ve been the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” Weiss wrote. “Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold, only to go through the mind-numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security… by publishing our 4,000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? Self-censorship has become the norm.” Ouch!
Weiss told Sulzberger that she was hired three years ago “with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages. The reason for this was clear: the paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers.”
“Everyone lives in fear of the digital thunderdome,” Weiss continued. “Online venom is excused as long as it’s directed at the proper targets.” She cited an op-ed piece by Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, as an example of what’s going on in the Times newsroom. Cotton called for the federal government to deploy troops to Minneapolis to quell the looting and violence that erupted after George Floyd died at the hands (or knee) of the police in May.
“It took two days and two jobs for the paper to say that the Cotton op-ed ‘fell short of our standards,'” Weiss wrote. James Bennet, the Times’ former editorial page chief, resigned shortly after publication of the Cotton piece and his deputy, James Dao, was demoted and reassigned to the newsroom. Why? Because they published an op-ed piece that wasn’t in compliance with their paper’s politically correct orthodoxy.
Those of us who studied journalism back in the last century learned we should be open to all points of view and that there was a firewall between straight news reporting and opinion journalism, which I practice here at the Nevada Appeal. I don’t pretend to report the news; instead, I share my opinions, right or wrong, with you, my dear readers. You can agree with me or not; it’s called freedom of expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution.
Apparently, however, some New York Times decision-makers no longer understand what free speech really means. Weiss asserted that those who go against the grain (“the narrative”) will be “hung out to dry” and their editors will be forced to resign or reassigned, as Bennet and Dao were.
At the University of Washington Journalism School way back when, we took pride in attempting to replicate the Times’ “News of the Week in Review” section because that was the gold standard. But now, if you published a story saying that President Trump did something right, you’d be ostracized and/or shunned by your journalistic colleagues.
I don’t love Trump, as you know, but I deeply resent the one-sided “never Trump” coverage he receives from once-great newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Guy W. Farmer has worked in and around journalism for more than 50 years.