Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Twitter Is Editing this Bitch

Our sense of justice tells us that organizations that go woke ought to go broke. It is happening to the NBA and to various other companies that have embraced radical woke politics. It will undoubtedly soon happen in others.

And yet, our sense of justice notwithstanding, the New York Times has gotten rich from the Trump presidency. It is fair to say, as New York Magazine reports, that Donald Trump single handedly rescued the New York Times from financial oblivion. 

One suspects that the New York Magazine piece signals the simple fact that the Times can no longer chug along on anti-Trump propaganda. But, can it go back to being the newspaper of record? Can it recover its talent for objective journalism?

One suspects that the task will be long and arduous. First, because the Times sold out its journalistic integrity for filthy lucre. Like Faust, it will soon discover that it is not so easy to cancel a contract with the Devil. Second, because the people the Times has been hiring, the pride of the millennial generation, have no real interest in reporting the news fairly and objectively.

These products of the American educational system are more like the Red Guards than a battalion of objective journalists. Not only do they not care about journalistic facts-- a colossal irony from a crowd that has been whining about Donald Trump’s ignorance about the facts-- but they have probably lost the capacity to report fairly and accurately.

The New York Magazine story begins by noting that the Times has gotten rich by being woke:

It is difficult to think of many businesses that have benefited more from Donald Trump’s presidency — aside from the Trump-family empire — than the Times. After Trump’s election, in 2016, subscriptions grew at ten times their usual rate, and they have never looked back. The Times has gone from just over three million subscribers at the beginning of the Trump presidency to its record of more than 7 million last month. It has hired hundreds of journalists to staff a newsroom that is now 1,700 people strong — bigger than ever. Its stock has risen fourfold since Trump took office, and the Times has consolidated its Trump bump into a business that includes Serial Productions, the podcast juggernaut; Audm, the audio-translation business; and a TV show based on the Times series “Modern Love” that was filming its second season this summer, until a COVID-19 false positive on-set forced it to halt shooting. More than a million people subscribe to its Crossword and Cooking apps alone, and the company has been able to weather the pandemic in part because it now has more cash on hand—$800 million—than at any point in its history. It has become the news-media organization to rule them all. 

Naturally, the story is anchored by the famous (or infamous) op-ed written by Sen. Tom Cotton. That the opinions of a United States senator could cause such an uproar, to the point of causing the editorial page editor, one James Bennet, to resign is surely a symptom of a serious derangement-- especially among the paper’s millennial employees. Now, the paper is divided between those who have some last shred of journalistic integrity and those who do not:

The dustup laid bare a divide that had become increasingly tricky for the Times: a large portion of the paper’s audience, a number of its employees, and the president himself saw it as aligned with the #resistance. This demarcation horrified the Old Guard, but it seemed to make for good business. 

Legendary Timesman, late executive editor Abe Rosenthal is probably wishing he could rise from his tomb:

A neutral objectivity had long been core to the way the paper saw itself, its public mission, and its business interests (Abe Rosenthal, a legendary Timesman, had the words HE KEPT THE PAPER STRAIGHT carved on his tombstone), even if it was an open secret that the Times was published by and for coastal liberals. 

Such is no longer the Times credo. Given the fact that it has hired a slew of millennials, and especially people who fulfilled diversity quotas, it has found itself with a new set of problems. Instead of reporting the news, it has taken to having Stalinist self-criticism sessions and systemic brainwashing.

There were focus groups — 38 of them and counting — and working groups and innumerable conversations about what the paper should be and look like and who it was for. The masthead started holding “Black-people meetings,” as one Black employee put it to me, in which members of the masthead talked one-on-one with employees of color to sort out why they felt the Times was an unwelcoming place. In #newsroom-feedback, there were many days in which several people were typing.

Dare we say, and we only dare do so because New York Magazine has said it first, but this outcome is not the best argument for diversity.

 Since then, as business boomed in the Trump era, it had gone on a newsroom hiring spree, with a particular focus on trying to diversify its ranks: 40 percent of newsroom employees hired since 2016 have been people of color.

This produced the following consequences:

The racial-justice reckoning that shook the nation this summer brought a new urgency to the effort. Managers were required to attend unconscious-bias training. The Times Magazine commissioned a diversity study of bylines and subject matter “to quantify what everyone already knows,” as one staffer put it. The Times gave employees the day off on Juneteenth, which marks the emancipation of America’s slaves. The efforts felt sincere, but everyone knew the road to real change would be long. All employees could do was sigh when one masthead editor explained, in a town-hall meeting, that the paper’s diversity study was being led by Ivy Planning Group, a consulting firm named for the fact that its three founders all went to Ivy League schools.

Diversity seems to have produced more chaos:

The new recruits were brought in to help supercharge the company’s efforts at modernizing its news operation, but the Times hadn’t fully understand what it would mean to have a new breed of journalist inside the building. “We set out to diversify the newsroom, but didn’t say, ‘Isn’t the next step to take what these new voices have to bring?’” Baquet said on the Longform podcast this summer. “We started hiring from BuzzFeed; we started hiring from other places, and it was almost like we thought, Okay, now they’re just going to become just like us.”

One unnamed columnist told publisher A. G. Sulzberger that Twitter was now in charge of the New York Times. And the columnist taxed A.G. with cowardice:

After Bennet’s ouster, Sulzberger met with a columnist for the “Opinion” section who had expressed consternation about the decision. Sulzberger promised the columnist that the Times would not shy away from publishing pieces to which the Times’ core audience might object. “We haven’t lost our nerve,” Sulzberger said.

“Yes, you have,” the columnist told Sulzberger. “You lost your nerve in the most explicit way I’ve ever seen anyone lose their nerve. You can say people are still gonna be able to do controversial work, but I’m not gonna be the first to try. You don’t know what you’ll be able to do, because you are not in charge of this publication — Twitter is. As long as Twitter is editing this bitch, you cannot promise me anything.”


Sam L. said...

"One suspects that the New York Magazine piece signals the simple fact that the Times can no longer chug along on anti-Trump propaganda. But, can it go back to being the newspaper of record? Can it recover its talent for objective journalism?' I can't see that happening. The NYT has drunk DEEPLY the poison that is Never-Trump. (See also, National Review.)

Ahhhh, kinda like the story of the Roman kid who tucked a fox into his clothing, and it stared eating him... Couldna happened to a nicer rag...and the NYT doesn't DO "nice".

Sam L. said...

Not to mention, there are SO many twits out there, I've heard.

Sethnicity said...
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