An Obituary: The New York Times, a Former Newspaper

The New York Times was founded September 18, 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones. Known as the Grey Lady, it has long been considered America’s paper of record. But it has been on life support for years as it has become an increasingly partisan rag. Sadly, the Times passed away on yesterday on July 14th, 2020. 

I don’t know how anyone can look at the New York Times today and think it’s anything more than a rebooted ThinkProgress with better reporting. Its demise have been increasingly obvious as the paper consolidated along progressive lines, but prior to today the Times could at least point to an effort to make ideological room for half of America. 

Prior to today, the paper had three token conservatives. Ross Douthat has been there the longest and is the only Times columnist to have a clear conservative ideology. But even he is Trump skeptical at best. Brett Stephens is the second token conservative but his ideology is more accurately described as a centrist with an aggressive foreign policy. Stephens most famous piece for the Times was his advocacy of a Second Amendment repeal. That screams movement conservative doesn’t it? Lastly, there was Bari Weiss– a liberal through and through but gets lumped in with the conservatives because of her support for free speech and general skepticism for wokeness. Yesterday, Weiss resigned from the Times

The Times welcomes ideological diversity in its pages as long as you aren’t to the right of the liberal elite. And if you aren’t sufficiently woke, you will be forced out. To quote from Weiss’s resignation letter:

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.

Sadly, this wasn’t even the first significant instance of ideological intolerance by the Times this year. If you think back to just a little over a month ago, the Times published an op-ed from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton advocating using the military to quell riots across America. This was a position President Trump was publicly considering. It was a position a majority of Americans supported. It was a position the Times was originally willing to publish. Then the woke mob came. Long story short, within two days, the paper added a retraction to the column, they refused to add it to the print version, issued an apology for publishing the op-ed, demoted deputy editor Jim Dao, and the opinion page editor resigned. All over publishing a mainstream opinion. 

For a paper whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, they seem to be uncomfortable printing a lot of news. Yet, just a few months earlier they felt comfortable enough to print the 1619 project. A project which advocated a radical and unsupported view of American history. A project which has been criticized for a plethora of factual inaccuracies. A project which ignored historians brought on to fact check it. There were no retractions issued. They happily put it in print. They not only refused to apologize but defended it. No one was demoted or forced to resign. I wonder what the difference was? 

Exist quote: “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…

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.”

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