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The American Press Is Destroying Itself

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Anonymous Bosch
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The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

Essential reading courtesy of Matt Taibbi:

The American Press Is Destroying Itself
Matt Taibbi wrote:A flurry of newsroom revolts has transformed the American press

Sometimes it seems life can’t get any worse in this country. Already in terror of a pandemic, Americans have lately been bombarded with images of grotesque state-sponsored violence, from the murder of George Floyd to countless scenes of police clubbing and brutalizing protesters.

Our president, Donald Trump, is a clown who makes a great reality-show villain but is uniquely toolless as the leader of a superpower nation. Watching him try to think through two society-imperiling crises is like waiting for a gerbil to solve Fermat’s theorem. Calls to “dominate” marchers and ad-libbed speculations about Floyd’s “great day” looking down from heaven at Trump’s crisis management and new unemployment numbers (“only” 21 million out of work!) were pure gasoline at a tinderbox moment. The man seems determined to talk us into civil war.

But police violence, and Trump’s daily assaults on the presidential competence standard, are only part of the disaster. On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.

The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.

They’ve conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it’s established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out loud to a data scientist fired* from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones!

Now, this madness is coming for journalism. Beginning on Friday, June 5th, a series of controversies rocked the media. By my count, at least eight news organizations dealt with internal uprisings (it was likely more). Most involved groups of reporters and staffers demanding the firing or reprimand of colleagues who’d made politically “problematic” editorial or social media decisions.

The New York Times, the Intercept, Vox, the Philadelphia Inquirier, Variety, and others saw challenges to management.

Probably the most disturbing story involved Intercept writer Lee Fang, one of a fast-shrinking number of young reporters actually skilled in investigative journalism. Fang’s work in the area of campaign finance especially has led to concrete impact, including a record fine to a conservative Super PAC: few young reporters have done more to combat corruption.

Yet Fang found himself denounced online as a racist, then hauled before H.R. His crime? During protests, he tweeted this interview with an African-American man named Maximum Fr, who described having two cousins murdered in the East Oakland neighborhood where he grew up. Saying his aunt is still not over those killings, Max asked:
I always question, why does a Black life matter only when a white man takes it?... Like, if a white man takes my life tonight, it’s going to be national news, but if a Black man takes my life, it might not even be spoken of… It’s stuff just like that that I just want in the mix.
Shortly after, a co-worker of Fang’s, Akela Lacy, wrote, “Tired of being made to deal continually with my co-worker @lhfang continuing to push black on black crime narratives after being repeatedly asked not to. This isn’t about me and him, it’s about institutional racism and using free speech to couch anti-blackness. I am so fucking tired.” She followed with, “Stop being racist Lee.”

The tweet received tens of thousands of likes and responses along the lines of, “Lee Fang has been like this for years, but the current moment only makes his anti-Blackness more glaring,” and “Lee Fang spouting racist bullshit it must be a day ending in day.” A significant number of Fang’s co-workers, nearly all white, as well as reporters from other major news organizations like the New York Times and MSNBC and political activists (one former Elizabeth Warren staffer tweeted, “Get him!”), issued likes and messages of support for the notion that Fang was a racist. Though he had support within the organization, no one among his co-workers was willing to say anything in his defense publicly.

Like many reporters, Fang has always viewed it as part of his job to ask questions in all directions. He’s written critically of political figures on the center-left, the left, and “obviously on the right,” and his reporting has inspired serious threats in the past. None of those past experiences were as terrifying as this blitz by would-be colleagues, which he described as “jarring,” “deeply isolating,” and “unique in my professional experience.”

To save his career, Fang had to craft a public apology for “insensitivity to the lived experience of others.” According to one friend of his, it’s been communicated to Fang that his continued employment at The Intercept is contingent upon avoiding comments that may upset colleagues. Lacy to her credit publicly thanked Fang for his statement and expressed willingness to have a conversation; unfortunately, the throng of Intercept co-workers who piled on her initial accusation did not join her in this.

I first met Lee Fang in 2014 and have never known him to be anything but kind, gracious, and easygoing. He also appears earnestly committed to making the world a better place through his work. It’s stunning that so many colleagues are comfortable using a word as extreme and villainous as racist to describe him.

Though he describes his upbringing as “solidly middle-class,” Fang grew up in up in a diverse community in Prince George's County, Maryland, and attended public schools where he was frequently among the few non-African Americans in his class. As a teenager, he was witness to the murder of a young man outside his home by police who were never prosecuted, and also volunteered at a shelter for trafficked women, two of whom were murdered. If there’s an edge to Fang at all, it seems geared toward people in our business who grew up in affluent circumstances and might intellectualize topics that have personal meaning for him.

In the tweets that got him in trouble with Lacy and other co-workers, he questioned the logic of protesters attacking immigrant-owned businesses “with no connection to police brutality at all.” He also offered his opinion on Martin Luther King’s attitude toward violent protest (Fang’s take was that King did not support it; Lacy responded, “you know they killed him too right”). These are issues around which there is still considerable disagreement among self-described liberals, even among self-described leftists. Fang also commented, presciently as it turns out, that many reporters were “terrified of openly challenging the lefty conventional wisdom around riots.”

Lacy says she never intended for Fang to be “fired, ‘canceled,’ or deplatformed,” but appeared irritated by questions on the subject, which she says suggest, “there is more concern about naming racism than letting it persist.”

Max himself was stunned to find out that his comments on all this had created a Twitter firestorm. “I couldn’t believe they were coming for the man’s job over something I said,” he recounts. “It was not Lee’s opinion. It was my opinion.”

By phone, Max spoke of a responsibility he feels Black people have to speak out against all forms of violence, “precisely because we experience it the most.” He described being affected by the Floyd story, but also by the story of retired African-American police captain David Dorn, shot to death in recent protests in St. Louis. He also mentioned Tony Timpa, a white man whose 2016 asphyxiation by police was only uncovered last year. In body-camera footage, police are heard joking after Timpa passed out and stopped moving, “I don’t want to go to school! Five more minutes, Mom!

“If it happens to anyone, it has to be called out,” Max says.

Max described discussions in which it was argued to him that bringing up these other incidents now is not helpful to the causes being articulated at the protests. He understands that point of view. He just disagrees.

“They say, there has to be the right time and a place to talk about that,” he says. “But my point is, when? I want to speak out now.” He pauses. “We’ve taken the narrative, and instead of being inclusive with it, we’ve become exclusive with it. Why?”

---

There were other incidents. The editors of Bon Apetit and Refinery29 both resigned amid accusations of toxic workplace culture. The editor of Variety, Claudia Eller, was placed on leave after calling a South Asian freelance writer “bitter” in a Twitter exchange about minority hiring at her company. The self-abasing apology (“I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past seven years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH”) was insufficient. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editor, Stan Wischowski, was forced out after approving a headline, “Buildings matter, too.”

In the most discussed incident, Times editorial page editor James Bennet was ousted for green-lighting an anti-protest editorial by Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton entitled, “Send in the troops.”

I’m no fan of Cotton, but as was the case with Michael Moore’s documentary and many other controversial speech episodes, it’s not clear that many of the people angriest about the piece in question even read it. In classic Times fashion, the paper has already scrubbed a mistake they made misreporting what their own editorial said, in an article about Bennet’s ouster. Here’s how the piece by Marc Tracy read originally (emphasis mine):
James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by a senator calling for military force against protesters in American cities.
Here’s how the piece reads now:
James Bennet resigned on Sunday from his job as the editorial page editor of The New York Times, days after the newspaper’s opinion section, which he oversaw, published a much-criticized Op-Ed by a United States senator calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities.
Cotton did not call for “military force against protesters in American cities.” He spoke of a “show of force,” to rectify a situation a significant portion of the country saw as spiraling out of control. It’s an important distinction. Cotton was presenting one side of the most important question on the most important issue of a critically important day in American history.

As Cotton points out in the piece, he was advancing a view arguably held by a majority of the country. A Morning Consult poll showed 58% of Americans either strongly or somewhat supported the idea of “calling in the U.S. military to supplement city police forces.” That survey included 40% of self-described “liberals” and 37% of African-Americans. To declare a point of view held by that many people not only not worthy of discussion, but so toxic that publication of it without even necessarily agreeing requires dismissal, is a dramatic reversal for a newspaper that long cast itself as the national paper of record.

Incidentally, that same poll cited by Cotton showed that 73% of Americans described protecting property as “very important,” while an additional 16% considered it “somewhat important.” This means the Philadelphia Inquirer editor was fired for running a headline – “Buildings matter, too” – that the poll said expressed a view held by 89% of the population, including 64% of African-Americans.

(Would I have run the Inquirer headline? No. In the context of the moment, the use of the word “matter” especially sounds like the paper is equating “Black lives” and “buildings,” an odious and indefensible comparison. But why not just make this case in a rebuttal editorial? Make it a teaching moment? How can any editor operate knowing that airing opinions shared by a majority of readers might cost his or her job?)

The main thing accomplished by removing those types of editorials from newspapers — apart from scaring the hell out of editors — is to shield readers from knowledge of what a major segment of American society is thinking.

It also guarantees that opinion writers and editors alike will shape views to avoid upsetting colleagues, which means that instead of hearing what our differences are and how we might address those issues, newspaper readers will instead be presented with page after page of people professing to agree with one another. That’s not agitation, that’s misinformation.

The instinct to shield audiences from views or facts deemed politically uncomfortable has been in evidence since Trump became a national phenomenon. We saw it when reporters told audiences Hillary Clinton’s small crowds were a “wholly intentional” campaign decision. I listened to colleagues that summer of 2016 talk about ignoring poll results, or anecdotes about Hillary’s troubled campaign, on the grounds that doing otherwise might “help Trump” (or, worse, be perceived that way).

Even if you embrace a wholly politically utilitarian vision of the news media – I don’t, but let’s say – non-reporting of that “enthusiasm” story, or ignoring adverse poll results, didn’t help Hillary’s campaign. I’d argue it more likely accomplished the opposite, contributing to voter apathy by conveying the false impression that her victory was secure.

After the 2016 election, we began to see staff uprisings. In one case, publishers at the Nation faced a revolt – from the Editor on down – after articles by Aaron Mate and Patrick Lawrence questioning the evidentiary basis for Russiagate claims was run. Subsequent events, including the recent declassification of congressional testimony, revealed that Mate especially was right to point out that officials had no evidence for a Trump-Russia collusion case. It’s precisely because such unpopular views often turn out to be valid that we stress publishing and debating them in the press.

In a related incident, the New Yorker ran an article about Glenn Greenwald’s Russiagate skepticism that quoted that same Nation editor, Joan Walsh, who had edited Greenwald at Salon. She suggested to the New Yorker that Greenwald’s reservations were rooted in “disdain” for the Democratic Party, in part because of its closeness to Wall Street, but also because of the “ascendance of women and people of color.” The message was clear: even if you win a Pulitzer Prize, you can be accused of racism for deviating from approved narratives, even on questions that have nothing to do with race (the New Yorker piece also implied Greenwald’s intransigence on Russia was pathological and grounded in trauma from childhood).

In the case of Cotton, Times staffers protested on the grounds that “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.” Bennet’s editorial decision was not merely ill-considered, but literally life-threatening (note pundits in the space of a few weeks have told us that protesting during lockdowns and not protesting during lockdowns are both literally lethal). The Times first attempted to rectify the situation by apologizing, adding a long Editor’s note to Cotton’s piece that read, as so many recent “apologies” have, like a note written by a hostage.

Editors begged forgiveness for not being more involved, for not thinking to urge Cotton to sound less like Cotton (“Editors should have offered suggestions”), and for allowing rhetoric that was “needlessly harsh and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate.” That last line is sadly funny, in the context of an episode in which reporters were seeking to pre-empt a debate rather than have one at all; of course, no one got the joke, since a primary characteristic of the current political climate is a total absence of a sense of humor in any direction.

As many guessed, the “apology” was not enough, and Bennet was whacked a day later in a terse announcement.

His replacement, Kathleen Kingsbury, issued a staff directive essentially telling employees they now had a veto over anything that made them uncomfortable: “Anyone who sees any piece of Opinion journalism, headlines, social posts, photos—you name it—that gives you the slightest pause, please call or text me immediately.”

All these episodes sent a signal to everyone in a business already shedding jobs at an extraordinary rate that failure to toe certain editorial lines can and will result in the loss of your job. Perhaps additionally, you could face a public shaming campaign in which you will be denounced as a racist and rendered unemployable.

These tensions led to amazing contradictions in coverage. For all the extraordinary/inexplicable scenes of police viciousness in recent weeks — and there was a ton of it, ranging from police slashing tires in Minneapolis, to Buffalo officers knocking over an elderly man, to Philadelphia police attacking protesters — there were also 12 deaths in the first nine days of protests, only one at the hands of a police officer (involving a man who may or may not have been aiming a gun at police).

Looting in some communities has been so bad that people have been left without banks to cash checks, or pharmacies to fill prescriptions; business owners have been wiped out (“My life is gone,” commented one Philly store owner); a car dealership in San Leandro, California saw 74 cars stolen in a single night. It isn’t the whole story, but it’s demonstrably true that violence, arson, and rioting are occurring.

However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.”

Even people who try to keep up with protest goals find themselves denounced the moment they fail to submit to some new tenet of ever-evolving doctrine, via a surprisingly consistent stream of retorts: fuck you, shut up, send money, do better, check yourself, I’m tired and racist.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, who argued for police reform and attempted to show solidarity with protesters in his city, was shouted down after he refused to commit to defunding the police. Protesters shouted “Get the fuck out!” at him, then chanted “Shame!” and threw refuse, Game of Thrones-style, as he skulked out of the gathering. Frey’s “shame” was refusing to endorse a position polls show 65% of Americans oppose, including 62% of Democrats, with just 15% of all people, and only 33% of African-Americans, in support.

Each passing day sees more scenes that recall something closer to cult religion than politics. White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”?

There is symbolism here that goes beyond frustration with police or even with racism: these are orgiastic, quasi-religious, and most of all, deeply weird scenes, and the press is too paralyzed to wonder at it. In a business where the first job requirement was once the willingness to ask tough questions, we’ve become afraid to ask obvious ones.

On CNN, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender was asked a hypothetical question about a future without police: “What if in the middle of the night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?” When Bender, who is white, answered, “I know that comes from a place of privilege,” questions popped to mind. Does privilege mean one should let someone break into one’s home, or that one shouldn’t ask that hypothetical question? (I was genuinely confused). In any other situation, a media person pounces on a provocative response to dig out its meaning, but an increasingly long list of words and topics are deemed too dangerous to discuss.

The media in the last four years has devolved into a succession of moral manias. We are told the Most Important Thing Ever is happening for days or weeks at a time, until subjects are abruptly dropped and forgotten, but the tone of warlike emergency remains: from James Comey’s firing, to the deification of Robert Mueller, to the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, to the democracy-imperiling threat to intelligence “whistleblowers,” all those interminable months of Ukrainegate hearings (while Covid-19 advanced), to fury at the death wish of lockdown violators, to the sudden reversal on that same issue, etc.

It’s been learned in these episodes we may freely misreport reality, so long as the political goal is righteous. It was okay to publish the now-discredited Steele dossier, because Trump is scum. MSNBC could put Michael Avenatti on live TV to air a gang rape allegation without vetting, because who cared about Brett Kavanaugh – except press airing of that wild story ended up being a crucial factor in convincing key swing voter Maine Senator Susan Collins the anti-Kavanaugh campaign was a political hit job (the allegation illustrated, “why the presumption of innocence is so important,” she said). Reporters who were anxious to prevent Kavanaugh’s appointment, in other words, ended up helping it happen through overzealousness.

There were no press calls for self-audits after those episodes, just as there won’t be a few weeks from now if Covid-19 cases spike, or a few months from now if Donald Trump wins re-election successfully painting the Democrats as supporters of violent protest who want to abolish police. No: press activism is limited to denouncing and shaming colleagues for insufficient fealty to the cheap knockoff of bullying campus Marxism that passes for leftist thought these days.

The traditional view of the press was never based on some contrived, mathematical notion of “balance,” i.e. five paragraphs of Republicans for every five paragraphs of Democrats. The ideal instead was that we showed you everything we could see, good and bad, ugly and not, trusting that a better-informed public would make better decisions. This vision of media stressed accuracy, truth, and trust in the reader’s judgment as the routes to positive social change.

For all our infamous failings, journalists once had some toughness to them. We were supposed to be willing to go to jail for sources we might not even like, and fly off to war zones or disaster areas without question when editors asked. It was also once considered a virtue to flout the disapproval of colleagues to fight for stories we believed in (Watergate, for instance).

Today no one with a salary will stand up for colleagues like Lee Fang. Our brave truth-tellers make great shows of shaking fists at our parody president, but not one of them will talk honestly about the fear running through their own newsrooms. People depend on us to tell them what we see, not what we think. What good are we if we’re afraid to do it?
Last edited by Anonymous Bosch on Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jaymann
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Jaymann »

So this is the official death watch of the fourth estate?
Jaymann
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AWS260
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by AWS260 »

Lot of garbage takes in there, but I don't have the time or emotional energy to get into it. Enjoy.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by malchior »

Jaymann wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:07 pm
So this is the official death watch of the fourth estate?
+1

That said, Matt Taibbi is himself being attacked by folks trying to settle scores from over 20 years when he was writing some gonzo newsletter in Russia. Something he apologized for in the past. And like others we are finding out that sins of the past are not to be forgiven by the mob.

In any case, I agree to an extent about what he is talking about. Not all of this is context perfect or even right (I think he gets the context on Bennet wrong in particular). However, I do think we are seeing an illiberal movement on the left rise that is starting to clash with the long-established illiberal movement that has consumed the right (aka Trumpists). People are calling it #cancelculture but the right did the same thing in a different way by primarying non-ideologues out and exiling the #nevertrump folks. It just seems the one on the left is getting more attention because it is new and 'edgier' versus the seemingly ordinary descent into fascism on the right that everyone shrugged at until it almost got us a few weeks ago.

Edit: I think his points on balance would be well-received by Baquet and many old-school liberal journalists. I've been seeing a lot of reporters making similar noise to Taibbi here. I get where he is coming from and this is something I've discussed with Kurth in particular. I would have believed it 20 years ago before propaganda and lack of context clouded everything. Print it all and let the readers decide seems wise in the abstract. Unfortunately, the readers are overwhelmed with noise and the 4th estate hasn't figured out how to be an effective filter. Instead, they often amplify the noise which is where I see this devolution beginning. We've progressed to a point where the media is breaking down majorly in effectiveness but IMO it wasn't driven by #cancelculture as Taibbi seems to see it. I see it as an inverse. This is a reaction to the polarization of information. And there are no easy fixes.
Last edited by malchior on Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by noxiousdog »

I know people love Taibbi, but I've always thought he takes a legitimate beef and then exaggerates it significantly. I am not a fan.
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Exodor »

noxiousdog wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:52 pm
I know people love Taibbi, but I've always thought he takes a legitimate beef and then exaggerates it significantly. I am not a fan.
+1

My brother loaned me one of his books and I couldn't get past the first few chapters.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by El Guapo »

Exodor wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:04 pm
noxiousdog wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:52 pm
I know people love Taibbi, but I've always thought he takes a legitimate beef and then exaggerates it significantly. I am not a fan.
+1

My brother loaned me one of his books and I couldn't get past the first few chapters.


If it helps this is essentially the same argument drained of some Taibbi drama and hyperbole.

In some ways the concern is not the press now, but that the press in 5 - 10 years could be a series of Fox News-style bubbles.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Kurth »

The traditional view of the press was never based on some contrived, mathematical notion of “balance,” i.e. five paragraphs of Republicans for every five paragraphs of Democrats. The ideal instead was that we showed you everything we could see, good and bad, ugly and not, trusting that a better-informed public would make better decisions. This vision of media stressed accuracy, truth, and trust in the reader’s judgment as the routes to positive social change.
100%, but it's probably no surprise that I'm deeply in sync with Taibbi's message here.
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by malchior »

Both Taibbi and Chait are mostly on the same page but it is so odd to me that they both aren't playing straight on the firing of Bennet at the NY Times. Both have to know the the inside baseball on that one. Bennet got shown the door because he committed a straight up management blunder. He failed to supervise the operation. When they published the Cotton piece he made a full-throated defense of it despite not having read the damn thing before it was published. And it wasn't the first time that his lack of attention got the NY Times into trouble. *Last year* they had to apologize for publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon. It's odd that they sort of bury the lede there but aside from that wrinkle Chait's piece captures the point better. The David Shor firing is really galling IMO.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Holman »

It's important to keep your eyes on the distinction between journalists and opinion writers.

NYT journalism is still some of the best in the world, and it's crucial to the health of the Republic.

The NYT editorial page is a mushy rag that believes Maureen Dowd and David Brooks are among the best thinkers available.
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by El Guapo »

Holman wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:16 pm
It's important to keep your eyes on the distinction between journalists and opinion writers.

NYT journalism is still some of the best in the world, and it's crucial to the health of the Republic.

The NYT editorial page is a mushy rag that believes Maureen Dowd and David Brooks are among the best thinkers available.
This is part of my growing position that newspapers should get rid of their op ed sections.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by malchior »

El Guapo wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:27 pm
Holman wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:16 pm
It's important to keep your eyes on the distinction between journalists and opinion writers.

NYT journalism is still some of the best in the world, and it's crucial to the health of the Republic.

The NYT editorial page is a mushy rag that believes Maureen Dowd and David Brooks are among the best thinkers available.
This is part of my growing position that newspapers should get rid of their op ed sections.
Yeah I'm sure they must be thinking about the whole thing. That said I don't know if throwing the whole thing out is warranted as 'too much trouble' yet but perhaps they should review the format. Is having a big cast of out of touch columnists churning out weekly pieces worth maintaining? I think it's still a yes. Agree with Holman on David Brooks and I'll throw out Marc Thiessen as terrible but we get a view into how far current right-leaning intellectualism has fallen via those two windbags. However, I could see them wanting to make sure that they review the quality of future pieces to make sure they maintain high standards. That way when the odd Tom Cotton wanders in they can enforce an actual standard.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

New York Times opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss eloquently addresses this topic in her public resignation letter to the NYT:
Bari Weiss wrote:Dear A.G.,

It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort 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. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.

I was honored to be part of that effort, led by James Bennet. I am proud of my work as a writer and as an editor. Among those I helped bring to our pages: the Venezuelan dissident Wuilly Arteaga; the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani; and the Hong Kong Christian democrat Derek Lam. Also: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad, Zaina Arafat, Elna Baker, Rachael Denhollander, Matti Friedman, Nick Gillespie, Heather Heying, Randall Kennedy, Julius Krein, Monica Lewinsky, Glenn Loury, Jesse Singal, Ali Soufan, Chloe Valdary, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Wesley Yang, and many others.

But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, 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.

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.

There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.

I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.

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 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.

What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.

It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed “fell short of our standards.” We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it “failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.” But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati.

The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its “diversity”; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.

Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm—language—is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes. Perhaps because there are millions of unemployed people in this country and they feel lucky to have a job in a contracting industry.

Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the “new McCarthyism” that has taken root at the paper of record.

All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they’ll have to do to advance in their careers. Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.

For these young writers and editors, there is one consolation. As places like The Times and other once-great journalistic institutions betray their standards and lose sight of their principles, Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital, and debate that is sincere. I hear from these people every day. “An independent press is not a liberal ideal or a progressive ideal or a democratic ideal. It’s an American ideal,” you said a few years ago. I couldn’t agree more. America is a great country that deserves a great newspaper.

None of this means that some of the most talented journalists in the world don’t still labor for this newspaper. They do, which is what makes the illiberal environment especially heartbreaking. I will be, as ever, a dedicated reader of their work. But I can no longer do the work that you brought me here to do—the work that Adolph Ochs described in that famous 1896 statement: “to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”

Ochs’s idea is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them.

Sincerely,

Bari
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Enough »

I guess privileged opinion writers that love to be contrarian provocateurs fanning outrage ought to be the measure of the press destroying itself? A writer who has built her entire career on controversy is resigning due to not liking the current crop of said controversy? Is the point proving the existence of the intolerant left (her favorite topic)? Or is about civil discourse overall? I am not thrilled with current political discourse, but I don't point to Bari (who writes to provoke) is doing anything in her career so far to improve the status quo. She's more of a type to throw more logs on the fire and then complain, oh man that fire sure is too big! Are we sure this isn't just her audition to get on Fox where she will be entitled to call her opinion pieces fair and balanced news?

I see Yashar Ali and others saying that Bari and Andrew Sullivan (also announced he's leaving NY Mag today) are working on something together, maybe that's the stage she's setting here? Regardless, is this what is truly destroying the American Press? Themselves, as in they own it? How about the hedge funds that bought up most of the papers and destroyed them from within? I have many, many friends who went in journalism with great optimism in the 80s only to show up to watch revenue decimated by free news online and then get decimated even further when their papers were sold to hedge funds that fired all the experienced writers and editors, which not surprisingly led to a massive decrease in quality? But, no, it's the damn intolerant left and those loons at the NYTs and Twitter that we ought to blame for the death of the fourth estate? Not buying it. I am buying that Bari knows how to market and sell herself damn well.
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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by malchior »

Anonymous Bosch wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:05 pm
New York Times opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss eloquently addresses this topic in her public resignation letter to the NYT:
She was brought on to bring click bait to the NY Times. If she truly was bullied, yeah that is a problem but she was always a concern troll at best. This letter is the audition for her new role as the beleaguered outcast from the NY Times. She is going to run into the arms of some right-wing media outlet for the dollars. As we'll all see shortly.

Edit: I wrote this independent of Enough but funny to see that we see the same obvious behavior.

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Enough »

malchior wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:11 pm
Anonymous Bosch wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:05 pm
New York Times opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss eloquently addresses this topic in her public resignation letter to the NYT:
She was brought on to bring click bait to the NY Times. If she truly was bullied, yeah that is a problem but she was always a concern troll at best. This letter is the audition for her new role as the beleaguered outcast from the NY Times. She is going to run into the arms of some right-wing media outlet for the dollars. As we'll all see shortly.

Edit: I wrote this independent of Enough but funny to see that we see the same obvious behavior.
Heh, glad for the edit. I read it the first time without the edit and was about to tap my mic to see if it was on hah. :lol:
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“You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either.” ―Galen Rowell

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Re: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Post by Enough »

An interesting read on this, the two letters and more here (Hat tip to Mr Fed).
A few days after spearheading a open letter in Harper’s defending free speech and denouncing cancel culture, Thomas Chatterton Williams announced on Twitter that he kicked someone out of his house for saying things he didn’t like about now-former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss. According to Williams, the expelled individual could not “substantiate the ridiculous claims he was repeating” about Weiss, which Williams says is typical of “many” who criticize her but “can’t even name a single thing she’s written.”

Criticism, mockery, and charges of hypocrisy followed. Here’s Williams, imposing social penalty on someone in response to speech, the very behavior his letter claims “will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.” He was fully within his rights — freedom of association, private property — and exercising them in this manner was counter-speech. But as Elizabeth Picciuto points out, social media criticism, insults, demands to fire someone, declining to publish someone (perhaps in response to employee complaints), boycotts, firings, and other actions that cancel culture critics deride are also within people’s rights — freedom of association, at-will employment — and are also acts of counter-speech.
Not incidentally, hypocrisy is also a central criticism of Weiss. She denounces cancel culture, builds up cancel culture opponents as heroes and martyrs, and tries to cancel people whose expressions she deems antisemitic. And her definition of antisemitic includes things that others would classify as criticism of Israeli government policy rather than bigotry against Jews. Among the people Weiss has gone after are Palestinian-supporting Columbia professors in 2004–05 and cartoonist Eli Valley in 2019. Weiss has become an object of scorn in some circles not because they’ve never seen any of her work, but because she embodies the hypocrisy of free speech for me, but not for thee.
My blog (mostly photos): Fort Ephemera - My Flickr Photostream

“You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either.” ―Galen Rowell

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