Under attack by transgender radicals from inside and outside the paper, top editors of The New York Times face a problem so difficult, I feel sorry for them. Well, almost.
The hesitation is warranted because the editors have only themselves to blame. After abandoning standards of fairness to push a crazy woke agenda, they are suddenly discovering that appeasing the far left is impossible.
The crash course in common sense comes with the lesson that the more you give the radicals, the more they want. And they don’t ask, they demand and make threats.
How did the Gray Lady not see this coming?
The pot boiled over last week when thousands of activists, celebrities and supporters, who include some staff writers and occasional contributors, blasted the paper’s coverage. They claimed in a letter there is a pattern of “editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people.”
A second letter from more than 100 groups, including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, accused the paper of publishing “fringe theories” and “dangerous inaccuracies.”
NBC reported that a billboard truck drove around the paper’s headquarters with messages such as, “Dear New York Times: Stop questioning trans people’s right to exist & access medical care.”
At first glance, the allegations seem preposterous, even a joke. After all, the paper’s coverage of transgenders is generally so fawning that it feels as if it belongs to a cult. Exhibit A was a gushy November profile under this headline: “For Ghana’s Only Openly Transgender Musician, Every Day Is Dangerous.”
Well, folks, that’s all the news from Africa!
If that isn’t woke enough, what would be? But too much is never enough for the activists, and the last thing they want is fair coverage because that would give legitimacy to critical views. In their absolutist world, there is only one acceptable view: theirs.
And so the mob is coming for the Times because the editors had the gall to publish less-than-cheerleading articles about gender surgeries on minors and other issues. An op-ed defending author J.K. Rowling, Public Enemy No. 1 in TransWorld, also made heads explode.
Despite the absurdity of the attacks, which include the demand that the Times hire four transgender writers within three months, the stakes are high for media outlets everywhere. Given the Times’ prominence, if the editors fail to defend independent journalism, other newsrooms will face pressure to fall in line and most will surrender.
Some already have. Take NBC. At the end of its article on the Times, it added an editor’s note that reads: “The writer of this article is a member of the Trans Journalists Association, one of the supporting signatories on the open letter penned by former and current Times contributors.”
That used to be called a conflict of interest and the writer wouldn’t be permitted to cover the story. Now it’s simply disclosed as if that absolves the perception of bias.
Meanwhile, the Times already faces a similar test of standards involving some black employees. Although it has operated on a virtual quota system for years to hire nonwhite journalists and corrupted its coverage to spot white supremacists behind every tree, the head of the union representing newsroom employees nonetheless calls the paper a racist bastion.
During a one-day strike over stalled contract talks, Susan DeCarava said no black employee, including 1619 Project guru Nikole Hannah-Jones, ever received the highest possible rating from managers. That proves, she told Fox News, the review process “is weighted against people of color.”
Fortunately, there is some reason for hope on the transgender front. Responding to the criticism, top newsroom editor Joe Kahn and opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury defended the coverage and fired back at employees and contributors who joined the barrage.
“Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy,” they wrote in a staff email obtained by The Post, adding: “We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.”
It was an appropriately tough response, but guild leader DeCarava quickly struck again. In a letter, she said employees have a right to protest the coverage, claiming it was a violation of federal law for editors to “threaten, restrain or coerce employees from engaging in such activity.”
That sounds like an overstatement of worker rights in a private company, but it adds to the pressure on management. Yet the reality remains that if punishments are not forthcoming, sound rules against employees participating in social and political movements are meaningless.
If, however, the participants are penalized, the editors are likely to face a larger staff revolt and perhaps suffer subscription cancellations by far-left readers.
Recent history shows editors at the Times serve at the mercy of the staff. Respected op-ed editor James Bennet was canned by the publisher after running a piece by Sen. Tom Cotton in 2020 that urged then-President Donald Trump to call in the military to put down urban riots.
Newsroom activists denounced the article, and publisher A.G. Sulzberger, after initially supporting Bennet’s decision, buckled and Bennet walked the plank.
Similarly, acclaimed science writer Donald McNeil was fired in 2021 after 150 colleagues signed an angry letter when they learned he had been lightly disciplined for using the N-word in a conversation with teenagers on a Times-sponsored trip two years earlier. According to McNeil, then editor Dean Baquet said he knew McNeil was not a racist but forced him out, saying, “Donald, you’ve lost the newsroom. People are hurt.”
The way things were
In another era, Times editors ran the newsroom instead of letting it run them. The legendary A.M. Rosenthal would listen to critics inside and out, including big advertisers, then usually tell them to buzz off because the paper couldn’t be bought or bossed.
His job, he famously said, was “to keep the paper straight” instead of letting reporters tilt coverage to the left. He had that passion inscribed on the footstone of his gravesite.
As for the staffers and contributors who publicly attacked their colleagues over the paper’s transgender coverage, Rosenthal wouldn’t have hesitated to hand out pink slips.
Indeed, he had a firm, clear view of conflicts of interest, which he demonstrated by firing a top female reporter who slept with and received expensive gifts from a politician she covered. The misconduct took place when she worked for another paper, but became public soon after she joined the Times. Rosenthal asked her if the report was true, she said yes and he told her to clean out her desk and never come back.
Staff members who requested a meeting were making a case the firing was too harsh when Rosenthal interrupted them to explain his unforgettable rule:
“You can screw elephants if you want to, but then you can’t cover the circus.”
Oh, for the days.
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