The head of The New York Times editorial page is under siege by the paper’s own journalists.
James Bennet’s crime? Hiring NeverTrumper Bret Stephens and Israel defender Bari Weiss as columnists, as well as publishing op-eds by people whose views offend the newsroom staff. Bennet has held at least three internal town-hall meetings in an attempt to respond to his critics, but the level of acrimony only seems to have increased. A different approach is needed.
Bennet should consider delivering remarks along the following lines when he opens his next in-house gripe session.
“I thought I would stand here like this so you could see if I was really as big a sonuvabitch as you think I am.
Seriously, I have noticed that your internal criticism of me and a transcript from one of these meetings has been leaked to the HuffPost. Moreover, it appears that my efforts to communicate with you about what the Opinion section is and does have been judged to be ‘equivocal bulls–t.’ So I’ll stop equivocating.
I have a question for you: Do you hear laughter? Because I can hear it echoing down from a few blocks away at Fox News HQ.
It’s the laughter of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and yes, even Tomi Lahren. The monologues practically write themselves. The once hard-boiled journalists at The New York Times have outed themselves as a bunch of whining snowflakes, demanding that the newspaper of record become a safe space, free of any micro-aggressions that might trigger their precious, precious feelings.
It’s the laughter of all of those benighted rubes in flyover country watching Fox News and listening to their talk shows on their crappy AM stations. The laughter stings, because they’re absolutely right.
As we all know, Bari Weiss recently celebrated American Olympic ice skater Mirai Nagasu by tweeting, ‘Immigrants: they get the job done,’ which is a quote from the musical Hamilton. Of course you all know this, since attending Hamilton is one of the things we Times people substitute for organized religion. One of you compared that tweet to our government’s internment of Japanese-Americans at the outset of World War II. This is a grotesque insult to people who suffered real injustice.
In contrast, Nagasu — recognizing the source of the quote — treated the tweet as the joke it was. The infantile back-stabbing from some of you in the newsroom is also a joke, but neither pro-immigrant nor funny. If Nagasu could charitably recognize the joke, why are you so petty? Did your parents really raise you to be that shameless? Were you rewarded for this sort of puritanical zealotry in college?
Perhaps it is something more. Because if some of you would like to come to this forum to point the finger at me for publishing wrongthink, it may be time to look at the performance of the newsroom.
For example: Remember the 2016 presidential election? You really screwed the pooch on that story, didn’t you? It’s okay to admit it; Dean Baquet already knows it. The in-house propellerheads claimed there was only a 15 percent chance Donald Trump would win, and your reporting left our readers with the impression that it could not happen.
That stunning upset was one of the most important stories of your lifetime.
Luckily for you, your journalistic incompetence and insular arrogance was rewarded in the marketplace. If any of you has a critique of capitalism, perhaps you should begin here. The newsroom has been able to ride its narrow-minded and emotional so-called ‘straight’ reporting to increased subscriptions and operating profits.
Moreover, the staff agitators among you successfully got rid of the position of public editor, so you can avoid any internal criticism of your failures while trying to derail my career.
Unfortunately for you, outside these walls, critics wonder whether you have simply gotten into the business of telling our progressive readers whatever they want to hear.
In this environment, it’s easy to imagine another reason beyond political correctness for your horror that I dared to publish statements from Trump supporters in the paper. It might give your otherwise forgiving superiors ideas.
It might make them consider that for all of the supposed diversity in the newsroom, it fails year after year because it marinates in parochial groupthink. It might — dare I say it — inspire them to conclude that this toxic intolerance for dissent only gets fixed by firing some of you who keep getting things wrong and hiring more conservatives for the newsroom.
For now, however, all of you are still employed by The New York Times. You would do well to keep that in mind.
After all, in the city that doesn’t sleep, The New York Times remains king of the hill, top of the heap. We set the agenda for broadcast and cable news. We set the precedents that made America live up to its promise of free speech.
The Washington Post? It’s the second-rate rag of a company town, owned by a man who would just as soon sell you a book of fart jokes as a newspaper. They have to rely on some mediocre Spielberg movie about them chasing after our story just to make themselves feel good.
We are the New York Times. We are a journalistic force on the world stage unmatched by anyone in America.
When you were writing your trite little essays trying to get into college or Columbia Journalism School about how you wanted ‘to make the world a better place,’ you dreamed of working here. What we do here is not just the first draft of history; it is history.
Now you are here. And it is all downhill for you afterward. The New York Times has been here long before you got here. It will live on long after you leave. It will live on long after you die. But you will have been a small part of its great history. You can be grateful for that opportunity.
If you cannot help your tribalism, consider that The New York Times is your tribe. It’s the tribe that pays your salary and ensures that your name does not get washed away by the tides of time.
You can be part of this tribe, or not. This room has two doors. One leads back to the newsroom, where you can get back to work and live up to your reputation instead of behaving like children.
The other door is the fire exit; you can clomp down all those flights of stairs, which will take to the back alley, right next to the garbage dumpsters. From there, you can phone Ashley Feinberg to see if she can get you an exciting new job at Fusion, or Splinter, or whatever the hell they’re calling it today.
It’s entirely your choice. Today’s meeting – our last on this subject – will not feature a Q&A. Class dismissed.”