Back in 2012, a Goldman Sachs banker famously quit his job in a New York Times op-ed. On his last day at work, Greg Smith got on the biggest soap box he could find to declare that Goldman’s culture is “toxic and destructive.”
Bari Weiss has now done the same thing to the Times itself. Her resignation letter, posted on her website, is a classic lesson of how to go out with a bang.
Yet Weiss does something more than just make noise as she’s making her exit. She lays bare a hostile, coercive workplace and describes incidents and insults that reveal how the Times is the same bully in-house that it is to those on the outside who don’t subscribe to its warped views.
In a chilling paragraph, Weiss cites “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.’ ”
That would make her a Nazi who supports Israel. The bullies need to work on their insults.
Although Weiss was a writer and editor on the opinion section, she makes the entire operation, especially the newsroom, sound like a college campus where dissent is demonized and silenced by threats. Who knew the Gray Lady could be so nasty?
Weiss does something else too — she dumps the whole mess in the lap of 39-year-old publisher A. G. Sulzberger. She addresses her letter to him and charges he personally stood by silently while a mob mentality seized control.
“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,” she writes. “And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage.”
As extra zingers, she quotes an 1896 line from Times patriarch Adolph Ochs — the current publisher’s great, great grandfather — who promised that the paper would always “invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”
Sulzberger himself had quoted the same line in a statement when he assumed the job of publisher from his father in January of 2018, and Weiss is cleverly reminding him that he has failed to deliver.
In that statement, Sulzberger, the fifth member of his family to run the Times since Ochs died in 1935, all of them men, also promised the paper would “continue to resist polarization and groupthink by giving voice to the breadth of ideas and experiences — because we believe journalism should help people think for themselves.”
In fact, the Times is doing the opposite. As Weiss notes, groupthink now dominates the paper’s coverage from front to back and readers are encouraged to obey, not think.
If Sulzberger is looking for someone to blame, he should grab a mirror. His firing of opinion editor James Bennett last month was a green-light to the mob that the publisher would bow before it, no matter how outlandish the demands.
Bennett’s sin was to publish an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton that said President Trump was right to consider using the military to quell riots in American cities. In a shocking breach with tradition, more than 800 Times staff members, the vast majority from the newsroom, signed a petition denouncing the piece and pushed for Bennett to be fired.
By surrendering, Sulzberger betrayed journalism’s best principles and there’s a straight line from that moment to Weiss’ resignation.
The publisher should pay special attention to one section of her letter. Noting she was hired after the Times failed to detect even a hint that Donald Trump would win the 2016 election, Weiss writes that the clear aim was to add “voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages.”
But instead of being open to those voices, she complains that “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.”
She’s absolutely right, which is why I have been saying that the Times no longer functions as an actual newspaper. Its “mission” is to rewrite the story of America, one that dovetails with the paper’s obsession with race, gender and every new form of identity politics.
The current crisis actually began two years before Sulzberger became publisher. In the summer of 2016, executive editor Dean Baquet abandoned the paper’s traditional standards of fairness and impartiality in its news pages in a bid to block Trump’s election. Since then, virtually every article on every page has been an editorial where the reporters’ opinions dominate.
Baquet’s decision to take away the guardrails against bias created a vacuum that was filled with a radical agenda. The paper is now published not to give readers facts and information, but to browbeat them with the far, far left political and social positions of the writers.
It’s a predictable Lord of the Flies outcome, where the official party line is the only acceptable position and you either go along or get out. So day after dreary day, from front to back, the Times reeks with the delusion that it knows best about everything.
That bloated hubris is a key reason why I revealed the Confederate roots of the Ochs-Sulzberger family in my Sunday column. The knowledge that members of the family, including Och’s mother, Bertha Levy, supported slavery and Ochs himself donated large sums of money to Confederate memorials should lead the staff to demand a full accounting of the family’s history. My fantasy is that the Times will apply the same standards to its own conduct that it applies to other people and institutions, and, humbled by what it learns, will be cured of its arrogance.
In that sense, Weiss and I are on the same page. We want the Times to be what it used to be and what Sulzberger promised it would be — a real newspaper.
Or is that too much to ask?
Mayor’s response to horror? Platitudes
After gunmen shot and killed 20-month old Davell Gardner in Brooklyn, here is the reaction of New York’s Worst Mayor Ever:
“This isn’t something we can allow — to wake up this morning and learn that a 1-year-old child was killed on the streets of our city by gunfire is just so painful.”
Later, he said the continuing surge of violence is “not acceptable,” but didn’t promise to do anything about it.
Getting back to school
Reader George Fitzpatrick has a good question, writing: “When is someone going to challenge the teachers’ unions for saying they would be ‘in the line of fire’ by dealing with children if schools are reopened?
“Does that mean we should close hospitals because doctors and nurses are ‘in the line of fire’ while dealing with sick patients?”
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