"I have chills"
January 24, 2021 1:27 PM   Subscribe

 
The management of the New York Times spends too much time avoiding "bias" and not enough time thinking about what's right. My opinion of the paper has gone down substantially in the last 10 years. I'm not really sure who they are trying to appeal to.
posted by demiurge at 1:34 PM on January 24 [81 favorites]


The times is honestly the worst "paper of note" these days. Going to the mat for absolute trash like bret Stephens in the name of journalistic freedom but firing Wolfe for an incredibly milquetoast tweet tells you all you need to now about their motivations.
posted by Ferreous at 1:35 PM on January 24 [95 favorites]


Meanwhile Maggie Haberman spent 4 years breathlessly printing whatever Trump told her (cough senior officials) as the official fact launderer, but that was access journalism, no bias there at all.

I really feel bad for all those folks who decided to subscribe to the New York Times as a response to Trumpism. The NYT took the money and wiped their asses with it.
posted by benzenedream at 1:36 PM on January 24 [104 favorites]


In a statement on Sunday, a Times spokesperson disputed online accounts about Wolfe, who the paper said was neither a full-time employee nor under contract. “For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet,” the rep said, declining to comment further.

Seems like there may be more to the story.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 1:49 PM on January 24 [15 favorites]


Or they're just covering for the fact that they carry the gop's water under the guise of balance.
posted by Ferreous at 1:50 PM on January 24 [37 favorites]


The management of the New York Times spends too much time avoiding "bias" and not enough time thinking about what's right.

I don't agree because they have little trouble resisting content preferences from the left. People on the right might say "of course not: the NYT is already a commie rag," but there are pretty middle-of-the-road lefty concepts that they simply bat away, like using the word "torture" to describe actions defined in law as torture. Like being happy Biden landed.

a Times spokesperson disputed online accounts about Wolfe, who the paper said was neither a full-time employee nor under contract.

Well that aspect of NYT hiring practices sounds like a story in itself.
posted by rhizome at 1:50 PM on January 24 [31 favorites]


From what I've seen, it was largely the mob that colourful racing tweeting identity Glenn Greenwald unleashed that led to Wolf's firing.

Which makes me wonder what Greenwald's deal is. Is he doing what his GRU handler instructs him to, or just being an asshole for the joy of being one?
posted by acb at 1:53 PM on January 24 [21 favorites]


Seems like there may be more to the story.

What brand of watch was she wearing at the time?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:05 PM on January 24 [73 favorites]


Which makes me wonder what Greenwald's deal is. Is he doing what his GRU handler instructs him to, or just being an asshole for the joy of being one?

I always assume both motives about anything he does.
posted by octothorpe at 2:05 PM on January 24 [17 favorites]


From what I've seen, it was largely the mob that colourful racing tweeting identity Glenn Greenwald unleashed that led to Wolf's firing.

Which makes me wonder what Greenwald's deal is. Is he doing what his GRU handler instructs him to, or just being an asshole for the joy of being one?


I found the Tweet in question, and while I don't agree with it in any capacity, it doesn't seem to be calling for a mob action firing - it's pretty much on par with most other subtweets on Twitter, where the intended response is a collective eye-rolling.

I searched through the replies of that tweet for the word "fire", and it didn't show up (which doesn't mean nobody was calling for her firing in the replies; searching for a single word is a pretty naive way to search but I didn't want to read more than a few.) So, this doesn't read as a likely cause and effect to me.

I'm not really into voyerism of employment decisions made by large companies, because I think it can turn into speculation in a way that the company can't really comment publicly on, but I am a bit curious if more explanation will come out as a result of this. If she was fired in response to her Tweet specifically, that's chilling, but I don't think we really have enough information to tell.
posted by LSK at 2:24 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Sulzberger's blatant Trumpism has left the NYT very vulnerable right at this moment, and I wish The Washington Post would step up and take advantage of that.
posted by jamjam at 2:31 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Could you point us toward that blatant Trumpism? Without knowing what you're referring to, I'm having a hard time believing that Sulzberger could possibly be an actual Trumpist.
posted by nobody at 2:41 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]


If you give space to pro trump voices and quash anti trump ones you are in effect a trumpist.
posted by Ferreous at 3:01 PM on January 24 [39 favorites]


Meanwhile, at Newsmax:
Watching footage of Mr Trump flying off on Air Force One, Mr Finnerty turned to the camera and said: “I get chills every time I see it take off or land.”

Meanwhile the ticker underneath him read: “New York Times editor mocked for DC Biden ‘chills’ comment”, in reference to journalist Lauren Wolfe who, ironically, had tweeted a similar emotional response to the new president arriving, as Finnerty had in seeing the old one leave.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:01 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


For nobody, refer to Les Moonves comment that "Trump is bad for the country, but great for us." Sulzberger doesn't have to be a committed Trumpist, he just has to foster an environment where they're taking advantage of Stumpy's crimes, but not going fully into a mode of trying to show just exactly how bad he is. Note that they virtually NEVER called his lies "lies" in the paper. That's a conscious decision and a distortion of what Stumpy said whenever he opened the fetid sewer immediately below his nose.

A lot of peeps think this is the Times getting "played" by bad-faith actors. I feel like this is more of them reverting to their sexist, racist mean. "We never wanted those non-whites and women, anyway."
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 3:02 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I don't agree because they have little trouble resisting content preferences from the left. People on the right might say "of course not: the NYT is already a commie rag," but there are pretty middle-of-the-road lefty concepts that they simply bat away, like using the word "torture" to describe actions defined in law as torture. Like being happy Biden landed.

The NYT’s ideological range is generally somewhere between Biden and Ross Douthat. The idea that they are Trumpists more than any other media entity that made a lot of money reporting on Trump (even nominally mostly in opposition) is sort of absurd.

So, this doesn't read as a likely cause and effect to me.

I dunno man it’s pretty easy to read cause and effect into somebody having aspersions cast on their professional conduct in public and them getting fired. I don’t know that this was Greenwald’s intention. But something about this is very weird and backwards all around. Like the NYT is still pretending that reporters don’t have political biases? And Greenwald is pretending his readers don’t know that, so he can make an example of a random low-level reporter so he can feel like a maverick saying it?
posted by atoxyl at 3:03 PM on January 24 [9 favorites]


A lot of individual articles at the NY Times are fine and seem bias-free but this sort of stuff is just unbelievable. The tweets in question were the most anodyne "I like Biden" posts you could concoct. Journalists are allowed to like things. This is capitulation to harassment. I don't think there's anything more to this story other than that Wolfe is a soft target. I'd cancel my NY Times subscription if I had one.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I'm not really sure who they are trying to appeal to.

The people to whom these pages appeal, maybe ...?
posted by carter at 3:43 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Not being right-wing seems to be an increasing liability in a newsroom, where it is equated with bias. The BBC will fire you, if you go to a pride parade.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:56 PM on January 24 [22 favorites]




I canceled my NYT subscription some years ago over their terrible editorial policies.

The Washington Post has a story on this: The New York Times says it didn’t part ways with editor over Biden ‘chills’ tweet. The NYT claims that she was freelance, and that the reporting was inaccurate, but that they won't have any more details than that.
posted by jjj606 at 4:25 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


> Seems like there may be more to the story.

If only there were some reporters who could cover it. This seems simple: Wolfe gives them permission to talk about her HR file or whatever it is.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:34 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I've always felt that being cut down and used as the paper they printed the Times on was a tree's version of winding up in Hell.
posted by Quasimike at 5:16 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


A lot of peeps think this is the Times getting "played" by bad-faith actors.
They aren't getting played by bad faith actors they are using them to prove their broadmindedness which they need for access to power which is the primary concern.
posted by Rubbstone at 5:18 PM on January 24 [12 favorites]


The bad-faith phone call is coming from inside the house.
posted by GuyZero at 5:24 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


I would expect that whatever behaviour is on her file is the same kind of thing as on most people's files: enough to fire you when that's necessary, but usually nothing that's actually a reason for concern. I used to think it was dumb that in my country you typically need to give people multiple formal warnings before being fired, but now I see what the utility of that is.

The times is honestly the worst "paper of note" these days.

I am genuinely surprised by how bad the Times is. It's got a very Serious style, but their reporting is largely insubstantial, they don't seem to break a lot of important news stories, and their opinion section is not particularly insightful.
posted by Merus at 6:08 PM on January 24 [13 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald will be an interesting story someday, since the path of him losing his way would be an interesting one to trace. His ideology has blindered him that much is clear. What that ideology is remains opaque.
posted by hilberseimer at 6:09 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I am also not sure that Glenn Greenwald deserves much of the credit for breaking the Snowden story - I think Citizenfour suggests that Laura Poitras deserves much more credit than she gets, and Greenwald's only real contribution was getting it in major papers.
posted by Merus at 6:14 PM on January 24 [14 favorites]


Heh, I wrote a short paper for one of my classes last week about NYTimes' social media policy for employees. Wolfe definitely violated it. I do agree that terminating her employment seems like an overreaction on their part, though.
posted by mollywas at 6:15 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Heh, I wrote a short paper for one of my classes last week about NYTimes' social media policy for employees. Wolfe definitely violated it. I do agree that terminating her employment seems like an overreaction on their part, though.
But this like the Timmit Gehru thing begs the question you have a policy but how do you apply it. As the chinese saying goes Rules are dead but people are alive. Other members of the Times have openly disparaged their colleagues and nothing. If this girl was Nancy Pelosi's niece or something we never would have heard word one. If she was a conservative opinion columnist same deal.
posted by Rubbstone at 7:08 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


freelance "contributing editor" is a rough place to be. i think she wouldve been in a much stronger position as a staff writer to stand up to this dumb social media policy which i'm sure is unevenly enforced.

but, that aside, everyone above is right in noting that right wing publications do 10 things worse than this each day before breakfast. if nytimes think what she did is inherently biased, they're being silly. if they think firing her makes them look unbiased to right wingers, then theyre naive.
posted by wibari at 8:18 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


"I found the Tweet in question, and while I don't agree with it in any capacity, it doesn't seem to be calling for a mob action firing - it's pretty much on par with most other subtweets on Twitter, where the intended response is a collective eye-rolling."

That's how these guys do it, though; they aren't usually stupid enough to be blatant about calling in the attack, because they know their fanboys know what to do. They simply point out the target (and it's not a "subtweet" if they leave the twitter handle in the tweet, which GG did) and let the cultists do the rest. And with 1.5M followers, it's easy to nuke a vulnerable target.
posted by tavella at 8:19 PM on January 24 [21 favorites]


he just has to foster an environment where they're taking advantage of Stumpy's crimes

Who the fuck is Stumpy?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:19 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


> If this girl was Nancy Pelosi's niece

She's a grown woman.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 8:26 PM on January 24 [23 favorites]


Who the fuck is Stumpy?

aka Cheeto Mussolini, Il Douche, Individual-1, Needy Amin, Donald Turnip, Donny Two Scoops, Genghis Can’t, IMPOTUSx2, the short-fingered vulgarian, etc
posted by flabdablet at 8:59 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile Maggie Haberman spent 4 years breathlessly printing whatever Trump told her (cough senior officials) as the official fact launderer, but that was access journalism, no bias there at all.

Hey I take offence to that, she also spent 4 years breathlessly printing whatever Ivanka and Jared told her thankyouverymuch. Do you know how hard it is to copy and paste from 3 different Whatsapp messages, credit where it's due please.
posted by PenDevil at 10:34 PM on January 24 [20 favorites]


Seems like there may be more to the story.

This is a fair description of a lot of the NY Times. I've almost always feel like there is something they are not telling us since at least the first Gulf war. And that's a big part of their problem.
posted by srboisvert at 1:32 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]


moar like paper over record, amirite
posted by flabdablet at 1:56 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Vox has now published an article recapping this – Did the New York Times fire an editor over a tweet? The Lauren Wolfe controversy, explained.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:02 AM on January 25 [10 favorites]


The Vox piece is the most thorough I've seen so far. Thanks, bittschoen.
posted by mediareport at 3:37 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


The management of the New York Times spends too much time avoiding "bias" and not enough time thinking about what's right. My opinion of the paper has gone down substantially in the last 10 years. I'm not really sure who they are trying to appeal to.

It's worse than that. The NYT is actively biased in favor of movement conservatism (see, for example, its publishing an op-ed openly calling for Trump to use the military to bolster his presidency). Whether by fear of (always bad faith) accusations of "bias" or the inclination of its leadership toward common cause with the politics of the wealthy, the refs have been thoroughly worked.
posted by Gelatin at 4:12 AM on January 25 [13 favorites]


The NYT claims that she was freelance, and that the reporting was inaccurate, but that they won't have any more details than that.

If it isn't the case that her reporting was inaccurate and the NYT is just claiming it is to justify letting her go, I wonder if Lauren Wolfe has an actionable defamation claim against the NYT. (Discovery would sure be interesting.)
posted by Gelatin at 5:07 AM on January 25


Whatever the reason for terminating the contract the NYT might have had, firing someone not two days after a harassment campain against them started is tantamount to taking the side of the harassers.
posted by hat_eater at 5:27 AM on January 25 [11 favorites]


If it isn't the case that her reporting was inaccurate and the NYT is just claiming it is to justify letting her go, I wonder if Lauren Wolfe has an actionable defamation claim against the NYT.

I'd read jj606's comment that way too at first, Gelatin, but if you click through you'll see that the NYT is saying the reporting about this incident has been inaccurate, not that Wolfe's reporting had been inaccurate. (If it were the latter, declining to spell out those inaccuracies would have been a failure that cuts right to the core of their institutional self-identity.)
posted by nobody at 5:30 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


I'm convinced that 'against bias' should go on the list of things that people certain about their bias use to silence any person questioning them. It's part of the scientific method to accept that we come from a background of assumptions that prejudice our understanding , nevertheless we persist in overcoming those prejudices. It remains an act of fairness and justice to get those in power to overcome their biases.

I've been mulling over these words from mhoye recently:
"I’ve said this elsewhere, but you need to remember that accusing conservatives - and anyone else whose politics boil down to the domination of others who aren’t part of their in-group - of hypocrisy is worse than just pointless. It encourages them. It’s egging them on. Of course they don’t think the constraints that apply to you - honesty, decency, some respect for the common good, some vestigial moral consistency - should apply to them. That’s not a failure, it’s a victory condition. It’s the the entire point of the conservative exercise. That you are bound, you are constrained, and they are not. That is what the conservative conception of power is, and why they seek it; so they can be hypocrites, so they can enjoy their hypocrisy without limit or consequence."
posted by k3ninho at 5:33 AM on January 25 [18 favorites]


bitteschoen: "Vox has now published an article recapping this – Did the New York Times fire an editor over a tweet? The Lauren Wolfe controversy, explained."
The journalist Glenn Greenwald, a prominent warrior against so-called “cancel culture,” responded by screenshotting and criticizing the sentiment.
Nicely played, Vox writer.
posted by octothorpe at 5:39 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]


Hey, whatever happened to the NYT fake podcast guy? Was he fired? Says here he was just reassigned.
posted by valkane at 6:10 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


That's how these guys do it, though; they aren't usually stupid enough to be blatant about calling in the attack, because they know their fanboys know what to do. They simply point out the target (and it's not a "subtweet" if they leave the twitter handle in the tweet, which GG did) and let the cultists do the rest. And with 1.5M followers, it's easy to nuke a vulnerable target.
posted by tavella at 8:19 PM


I think it's also worth noting that Greenwald has criticized others as "tattles" when they've used screenshots to amplify their thoughts to an ideologically receptive audience, even when the content that offended him didn't specifically contain a call to action. People saying he didn't explicitly call for her to be fired seems like they're giving him the benefit of a doubt that he is unwilling to extend to others.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 6:40 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]




Note that "cancel culture" only applies if you're a woman. Ryan Lizza has been rehabilitated by CNN., and by Esquire.
posted by Dashy at 7:36 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]




Lizza working again? After what he did!?! For shame.
posted by Wood at 8:33 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


"Not fired over a single tweet" is a classic non-denial denial.

I was thinking of posting this on the censorship thread from a week or two ago. Similarly, Will Wilkinson was fired from the Niskanen Center over a lame tweet falsely represented as promoting violence. (Both parties--Wilkinson and Niskanen--are consummate moderates.)

This seems simple: Wolfe gives them permission to talk about her HR file or whatever it is.

Why would you invite a former employer to say mean things about you publicly?
posted by mark k at 9:52 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Please don’t cancel your subscriptions to @nytimes! It is an incredible paper filled with talented journalists. We need them and we need a thriving free press. Thank you!

Good for her, but: Of all the incredible papers in the world, the NYT is the one in the least need of your money.
posted by mark k at 9:53 AM on January 25


Vanity Fair – Inside the New York Times’ firing of Lauren Wolfe
I checked in with a number of senior Times sources on Sunday, and they all told me the same thing: Wolfe had previously been cautioned about her social media behavior. A manager gave her a warning months ago after staffers expressed discomfort with certain tweets she was told bordered on being political. My sources emphasized that Wolfe was not a full Times employee—her position on the “flexible editing desk,” which springs into action during heavy news cycles and staffing shortages, was a temporary one. But sources also told me that even though Wolfe was brought on as a “casual” (Times jargon for freelance editor), she was pursuing a full-time position on a newly created live-journalism team headed up by assistant managing editor Marc Lacey. Whether her employment could or would become permanent was yet to be seen. According to someone with knowledge of the phone call in which Wolfe was let go, she was told that her name and the Times’ name were in headlines all over the place, and “we can’t have that.”

[...]

Major news outlets like the Times are relieved to no longer have a president who constantly calls them “fake news” and “the enemy of the people,” but they also don’t want to be seen as overly friendly to the norm-abiding Biden administration. As one Times journalist put it, “You’d think under all this added scrutiny, the company would be more transparent about how they go about these things. A lot of people inside were scratching their heads about how they handled this one.”
posted by bitteschoen at 10:45 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Give the NYT a break. How else would you learn that Biden is an inauthentic American and a cybersecurity risk because he has a Peloton bike?
posted by JackFlash at 11:08 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Wolfe had previously been cautioned about her social media behavior. A manager gave her a warning months ago after staffers expressed discomfort with certain tweets she was told bordered on being political.

So instead of being fired for a single tweet, she was let go for a few that 'staffers said bordered on being political', and therefore the NYT is saying the reporting was 'inaccurate'. Way to go journalists.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:11 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]


Give the NYT a break. How else would you learn that Biden is an inauthentic American and a cybersecurity risk because he has a Peloton bike?

Wait, I thought he was an inauthentic American and a cybersecurity risk because he has a Rolex watch.

I swear, the news cycle moves so fast these days it's impossible to keep up.
posted by flabdablet at 11:49 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Major news outlets like the Times are relieved to no longer have a president who constantly calls them “fake news” and “the enemy of the people,” but they also don’t want to be seen as overly friendly to the norm-abiding Biden administration.

WHY THE HELL NOT??!?! I truly do not get why that is a "problem."
Also, "overly friendly?" Why not just shoot for "neutral?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:09 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm patting myself on the back for calling it a non-denial denial. It wasn't one anodyne tweet. It was several!

they also don’t want to be seen as overly friendly to the norm-abiding Biden administration

Which fuels so much frustration with their editorial choices. They obviously really care about this, more than communicating clearly to their readers that Trump had uniquely bad and dangerous characteristics.

Note the Times will presumably never fire White House correspondent Peter Baker who says:
As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate, and so to that end, I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to any non-journalism organisation, I don’t support any candidate, I don’t give money to interest groups and I don’t vote.

I try hard not to take strong positions on public issues even in private, much to the frustration of friends and family. For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong.
(From a good Jay Rosen (at NYU) piece; worth reading the whole thing.)

Studiously refusing to form an opinion on whether lies, illegal acts and opposing the peaceful transfer of power are bad things is obviously a really strong worldview and not "impartial" or "objective." In fact, if you report on them this way you are communicating that they are not that bad!
posted by mark k at 1:02 PM on January 25 [16 favorites]


they also don’t want to be seen as overly friendly to the norm-abiding Biden administration

Horrors! Norm-abiding! What is the meaning of this sentence, that they need to make room for bomb-throwers and future Trumps?
posted by rhizome at 1:05 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]


I'm a journalist. But I'm an American before that, and I sure as hell have opinions.
posted by AJaffe at 3:31 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I think the Times's rule that apparently says something like "we want you to get our brand out there so be active on social media, but don't say anything that might make it appear you are not neutral" is bogus and wrong. I really like what Wesley Lowery had to say about this.

Journalists are citizens and should be allowed to have personal opinions. Sure, they should be careful to not let their opinions color their journalism. But as private citizens, they shouldn't be told they are not allowed to participate in discussions because they have to protect their news org's neutrality stance. And avoid waking up troll armies. Can't have that. (We will have that, regardless.)

Also, there is no such thing as neutrality in good journalism. If you believe news reporting is vital for democracy, guess what - you're not neutral. You're in favor of democracy. You took a side. Stop trying to hide that fact or apologize for it or give fascists equal time. If you think fash thought needs to be understood, maybe run an op-ed that isn't full of lies (if such a thing is even possible), but don't let it leak into your news as a legitimate "side" of the "debate," and for god's sake stand up for your people when they're attacked by hateful mobs.

(Also, stand up for your people by not treating them as disposable gig workers you can exploit, but that's another matter...)

I think a lot of Times reporting is excellent. A lot of it is silly (terrible elitist higher ed reporting, for example; Rolex-Peleton garbage). Most of the problems, though, I think are due to news editing that is out of touch and prone to appeasement of undemocratic movements like, uh, the Republican Party. And those editors are the people who set social media policies and fire reporters.
posted by zenzenobia at 4:15 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


If you are looking to further independent journalism, please consider donating to ProPublica. They do not have a Style section.
posted by benzenedream at 4:39 PM on January 25 [8 favorites]


Her tweet is something you learn not to do in j-school 101. I get why people don’t like the rule, but that’s the rule.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:34 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate

Yeah, nah.

As soon as you choose to put yourself in a position where what you write reaches an audience of millions, you're participating. Pretending otherwise is just delusional.

And if your participation extends to granting your employer the incremental benefit of your professional reputation, and your employer leverages that benefit in order to strengthen and preserve a political order where billionaires and warmongers are just fine and everybody else can go hang, then there is no non-delusional way to avoid the fact that your participation is grounded in a political stance that is and should be open to harsh criticism.

"Our job is to observe, not participate" is nothing more than the thinnest possible veneer of respectability over "I was only following orders".
posted by flabdablet at 12:18 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Her tweet is something you learn not to do in j-school 101. I get why people don’t like the rule, but that’s the rule.

Or just tweet it out as: "Media sources report `chills` on seeing Biden land".
posted by PenDevil at 12:56 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]


"Our job is to observe, not participate" is nothing more than the thinnest possible veneer of respectability over "I was only following orders".

It’s the basic tenet of journalism. Are the people who follow this who work at the small newspapers throughout the country also propping up billionaires and warmongers?
posted by girlmightlive at 1:05 AM on January 26


The difficulty here seems to be in the implicit comparison people are making between Biden and Trump, with the latter's lack of even the most basic respect for laws or other people. Were someone at the NYT to have posted an even mildly pro-Biden message, back, say, during the early primaries the reaction to it here likely would have been considerably different.

As a basic tenet observe and report without participation can feel like support, reporting should indeed still cover things like noting where someone like Trump may be violating their oath of office or lying when the facts are there. Unbiased reporting, or as that held as an ideal even if not perfect, isn't simplistic "both sidesism" or just repeating what someone says, but is based on the facts around the assertions, when done well any claims are matched to a history and fact, though not necessarily in the same articles as there are different requirements for each assignment.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:27 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Are the people who follow this who work at the small newspapers throughout the country also propping up billionaires and warmongers?

This is a question that can obviously only be answered on a case by case basis.

That said: if the newspapers in question have a consistent editorial policy that demonstrates more concern with trying to report "both sides" of contentious issues where the actual facts are genuinely all on one side, then yes.
posted by flabdablet at 1:55 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I think it might be helpful to keep in mind that the left's complaints about news are primarily about framing, how a story gets told, who is quoted, and what isn't reported on. These are more editorial decisions and have historically leaned towards maintenance of the status quo perspective, often heavily. The complaints about bias in the news by the left in this regard have been long and loud.

The right has increasingly picked up on the complaints about bias, but taken them in a different direction, where it isn't an issue of framing but actual fact that is being distorted. That is dangerous as we absolutely need some institution to provide factual coverage that can be seen as generally accurate in what is being reported actually occurred or was said. Complaints about bias made too broadly feed into the idea that journalism can't be trusted at all, not just that they sometimes reflect social bias.

In talking to a number of conservatives over recent years about news stories, almost to a person they say you can't trust any news organization, including Fox, because they all lie. That's a huge problem if you want to be able to address issues that require some basis in fact and acceptance that those facts are indeed real.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:09 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


It’s the basic tenet of journalism.

Just as following orders is the basic tenet of the military.

The basic tenet of the military is designed to suppress, in the mind of the soldier, the fact that deciding to follow orders is itself a choice with moral consequences.

The basic tenet of journalism is designed to suppress, in the mind of the journalist, the fact that being sufficiently close to a story to report accurately on it is itself participation that has moral consequences.

The point is that neither of these basic tenets offers anything close to a get-out-of-jail-free card for the moral consequences of our choices. There are basic tenets of being a decent human being that come before both these things and it is unreasonable for any employer to act as if those don't exist.

It's also unreasonable for any employer to impose workplace specific standards outside paid working hours. In particular, a general expectation that a journalist must, on pain of unemployment, respond to every notable event as if they were actively reporting on it for pay is exactly the kind of corporate-totalitarian bullshit that the pretence that journalists are not participants enables.
posted by flabdablet at 3:15 AM on January 26 [10 favorites]


That's a huge problem if you want to be able to address issues that require some basis in fact and acceptance that those facts are indeed real.

In 59 years on this planet I have yet to see any evidence that addressing issues that require some basis in fact has ever been part of the conservative project. As is no more than one would expect from a project dedicated to the preservation of a fundamentally indefensible principle.
posted by flabdablet at 3:33 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


The point is that neither of these basic tenets offers anything close to a get-out-of-jail-free card for the moral consequences of our choices. There are basic tenets of being a decent human being that come before both these things and it is unreasonable for any employer to act as if those don't exist.

But that only works if you assume being a decent human being roughly matches your ideal and those being employed fit that standard. Had the tweet been in support of, say, Lindsay Graham, the "decent" part would be in question for most here, at which point the question around the employer's stance becomes one whether they have reason to question that loyalty. It isn't a get out of jail free card for reporters to try to report without bias, it's an ideal that is based on the importance of the occupation to the greater good of the society outweighs individual interest. It's something that is of course continually difficult to achieve and suffers many failures, as we are all part of a system infested with various biases, but the ideal and attempt to uphold it still has value and informs a belief over there being something inherently decent in the attempt to serve the public interest before your own. It's something that more cops would do well to attend to, for just one example.

While there have always been those in power who lie to the public, there is an unmistakably vast difference between a public that accepts certain events did occur because they have some faith that the news media reports the facts of events with reasonable accuracy, and not trusting them at all to do even that. When you reach a point where the very existence of something like the Sandy Hook murders is questioned, the problem is well beyond framing bias and comes from people, who no doubt think themselves decent human beings, basing trust on gut instinct, believing their own biases are justified, and finding "news" from podcasts, youtube, and wherever else that fits their sense of proper "decency".
posted by gusottertrout at 5:14 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


It's also unreasonable for any employer to impose workplace specific standards outside paid working hours.

I am curious if you have worked in journalism. I know plenty of journalists who wrote about the inauguration without inserting their personal thoughts. There isn’t anything noble about sharing you have “chills.” They tell you day one that you are expected to keep your opinion to yourself whether or not you are on the clock. It’s a sacrifice hundreds or thousands of journalists manage to make everyday. I did it myself for many years. The subject of this post knew the expectations, and allegedly continued to ignore them.

She shared she had chills when Biden arrived. There is nothing newsworthy or truth-to-power about stating this.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:39 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


It's also unreasonable for any employer to impose workplace specific standards outside paid working hours.

That's 100% not true for social media and other conduct. You can be fired for being part of an insurrection, for example. There is, in Canada, a difference between being fired for cause, in which case no severance etc., and that is hard to establish because there it's true that your conduct has to basically put the company at risk in some way. But you can be dismissed without cause -- and paid out whatever the company owes in that case -- for conduct outside of work.

The question of whether those policies are clear and applied equally is really important but in the US and Canada, anyway, it can be an employer's policy.

I also agree that in any media organization I've worked in since really at least 2007 has had a clear social media policy that was quite serious. I've been out for over 5 years and I have started Tweeting more of my opinions and I still get a frisson every time for two reasons - one is that I had trained myself out of it, and another is that I'm aware that I'll either have to go back and remove it all or stay out of media (which is mostly my intention, but life is long.)

I have always been uncomfortable with the marrying of the personal brand and the corporate brand, but when I was an editor it was crystal clear to me that my personal Twitter and Instagram (I kept my Facebook locked down because I didn't want people stalking my family) was an extension of my professional profile along the lines of being present at a professional networking event. Readers do look you up, and they do formulate opinions of your writing and your publication based on what they see online.

This even happens in my tiny Martial Arts academy with instructors, especially the 'cool' ones, and even there we have a clear social media policy. If we had, for example, an instructor making fun of people's weight on Tik Tok, that would be a really serious issue.

A healthy organization makes this clear. I can't judge this particular situation but it sounds from the Vox article like the Times was talking to her about her social media conduct prior to the firing.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:40 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I am curious if you have worked in journalism.

No, I have not. Nor have I worked in the military. Nor would I willingly choose to work for any employer who imposes onerous conditions on life outside the workplace, including but not limited to dictating those aspects of my personal life that I may or may not choose to make public, or making my continued employment conditional upon eschewing recreational chemicals that have no impact on my ability to do my job. To all those who are willing to work under those conditions I say: best of luck to you, and I truly hope your lives work out every bit as well for you as mine has been doing for me.

Experiencing a little frisson every time you express an opinion in public, on the basis of concern about retribution from somebody more powerful than you, is therefore never a thing I've had to live with. I take it as a sign that you're living in a state of oppression. I have no wish to share that experience and have a history of making choices that have helped me not need to. I would rather continue to feel free to express my positions openly and provide rationales for them on request, so that people who read them can form an impression of where I'm coming from and get some reasonable gauge to apply to the reliability of anything I might say, and I can get feedback that helps me improve at the decent human being thing.

The effort that journalists put toward making sure what they write and present as journalism is honest and factual? Totally laudable. Maintaining an image as a mere recording fly on the wall of human existence, 24x7? Unachievable, corrosive to the soul and correspondingly less laudable. Requiring 24x7 maintenance of such a public pretence as a condition of employment? Oppressive.

You can be fired for being part of an insurrection, for example.

Being part of a totally unwarranted insurrection is scarcely a violation of a workplace specific standard, though, surely? That's more a failure at basic citizenry.

There's also a vital question of exactly how the person concerned participated in the event. There's always a grey area, obviously, but for example it seems pretty clear to me that in the case of the most recent US insurrection, Robert Moore was way closer to the appropriate side of that grey area than John Sullivan.

If we had, for example, an instructor making fun of people's weight on Tik Tok, that would be a really serious issue.

Again, I'd see this as indicative of a failure of basic human decency rather than a specifically work-related standards breach. I have no problem at all with the idea that an employer should be able to sack somebody who displays a pattern of that kind of failure. Nobody should be forced to work with arseholes.
posted by flabdablet at 7:57 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Can't find it but I remember the gushing in Time magazine in 1981 over Ronald Reagan when he first came into office. His wife, Nancy, was considered chic and stylish, and the pair of them were greeted with relief by some of the magazine's pundits and other talking heads who were delighted to see Jimmy Carter and his sad sweaters leave the White House.

(If you have grown up poor and aren't sure if class matters in the US, notice when coverage of that sort pops up. It exists, and it sucks but that only one small aspect of the Big Mess we are living through.)

Doing journalism right is hard. I think it requires both accuracy and fairness but not, god help us, "balance." Balance is bullshit, if it means giving both Hitler and the Allies 50% of the space in any coverage. That is just crazy pants, but we live in a crazy pants world. So-called objectivity, which may lead to a type of crazy-pants balance, is literally impossible. The misguided journalist above, the one who even refuses to vote, has robbed both his life and his journalism of the benefits of a broader perspective. You know, the kind of perspective that comes from doing things other than reporting.

As long as a reporter is diligent about accuracy and fairness (which to me means giving various stakeholders or whomever an opportunity to comment, not an equal share of the quotes because that should be determined, by you know, accuracy, the facts, etc.), then the reporting that gets cranked out should be better than a lot of what we are getting these days.

The people in power (the bosses, in this case) will fire whomever whenever for whatever reason they want. I thought I had an opinion about this particular firing but turns out I don't. I have an opinion about journalism: We need more approaches like that of ProPublica and less like that of the New York Times. Also, less Twitter. Some reporters use Twitter to tease things in ways that aren't necessarily accurate. Yuck. Back to doom scrolling, but is that one word or two?
posted by Bella Donna at 8:31 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Maintaining an image as a mere recording fly on the wall of human existence, 24x7? Unachievable, corrosive to the soul and correspondingly less laudable.

I can assure you that me prioritizing my journalism career over wanting to share on social media that I liked Obama was not soul corroding. I don’t get the purpose of this “I could never do such a thing” tone. We’re talking about unprofessional tweets, not Watergate. I’m wondering if everyone here reads their employee handbooks and codes of conduct cover to cover—I bet some would be surprised at what they contain.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:48 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


fairness (which to me means giving various stakeholders or whomever an opportunity to comment, not an equal share of the quotes because that should be determined, by you know, accuracy, the facts, etc.)

"Mr. Giuliani was approached for comment and responded with his customary farrago of barefaced lies and inflammatory, nonsensical talking points."

Now that's the kind of accurately reported both-sidesism I could get behind.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Here’s more commentary I found insightful: In Defense of Lauren Wolfe (and against caving to outrage mobs) by author Jill Filipovich, arguing that "You don’t have to defend Lauren’s tweets as good to say that her firing was bad".
posted by bitteschoen at 10:14 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Experiencing a little frisson every time you express an opinion in public, on the basis of concern about retribution from somebody more powerful than you, is therefore never a thing I've had to live with.

Actually I wasn't afraid of corporate retribution, or at least, that was pretty far down my list, probably because by the time Twitter came around I was into the layer of editorial where you can be ousted at any time for a "new vision" or simply didn't deliver eyeballs. So there were lots more reasons to fire me every day.

The frisson I get is that I no longer feel the responsibility I felt for so long that my feed is about my/a publication's/a future publication's relationship to the readers that I have a responsibility towards...when it was, because my career was in media and this was social media, I personally felt I had to treat it like I was at a professional conference/training session/event. I'm not saying these are globally right or anything but they included:

- a lot of people followed me because of my job so it was much more media than social

- whether true or not, as an assigning editor, I felt I had a responsibility to not cut people off from pitching me (it was clear to me at the time that writers were researching and reaching out to editors that way) and I felt that if I was very strongly opinionated about say, silly but true example, hating the Oscars, I might not get pitches for Oscars-related stories that my readers would love

- for the things I was writing, I wanted to be able to interview good sources, and although that in no way eliminates bias or the responsibility to do 2343 other things including asking whether I was the right writer for any piece...as the on-staff writer who might have to cover say, interviewing a parent of a child who was arrested, on a 3 hour deadline, I didn't feel like it was right to have my unfiltered parenting views on my social media feed either, except the times they went through an editorial process first

- additionally my personal views might take away from the writing my writers were doing, if readers confused them with the publication which, I assure you, they often did - I once posted some cookies my kids had decorated because, you know, cookies are pretty neutral, and three days later there was a complaint on a different social media platform about the instructions for a *different* set of cookies that clearly was wrong because the cookies my kids had decorated also looked wrong and were also on a wooden bread board (I did not get into trouble, but this is an example of what it can actually be like with actual readers)

- I got my main break into a senior role before social media and so I couldn't say 'they knew what they were getting'

I have no problem at all with the idea that an employer should be able to sack somebody who displays a pattern of that kind of failure. Nobody should be forced to work with arseholes.

I think I'm sensitive about this remark because in my current job, I am largely training staff who are working in their first job ever and are younger, and may have neurological differences or learning differences, and there is a lot of information about what an arsehole is which is not immediately apparent to them.

Which is why we have a robust policy and we train them on it more than once - and it's not about whether I want to work with them or not and shouldn't be. And kind of like "accessible design is good design, full stop," I feel like being forced to have explicit and clear policies is making me appreciate that they can be a good thing.

And there are weird specific to our industry things like don't post yourself doing parkour without some kind of thought about whether your 11 year old students are going to jump off a roof. (Actual thing.)

I can't really say I have a strong opinion on What Really Happened but I do think if Wolfe had already been in discussions with the NY Times about their social media policy, prior to the mob, and it was clear, and she continued to violate those policies then it's very defensible to me that she was let go. I'm not sure I know whether that actually happened.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:28 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


It ["Our job is to observe, not participate"] is basic tenet of journalism

This is not correct and there has been a *lot* of good discussion from journalists on the problems caused by people pretending it is. The Jay Rosen piece I linked above (which is the source of the quote) is not a bad place to start.

Deciding to plaster your not especially damning investigation to the Clinton Foundation on the front page, dump a ton of details, and write editorials about how serious it all is, is participating! And in fact most journalists would agree that uncovering and exposing corruption, incompetence and hypocrisy is part of their mission statement. Journalists want to be players.

A problem with the Peter Baker approach is that pretending to be non-participant means you turn off critical thinking once an issue gets a vaguely partisan split. The press was fine hammering Scott Pruitt at the EPA spending $100,000 on a high security office door as a shameful thing, but doing that for policies that would harm the health of millions (also an objective fact! and immensely more consequential!) was "participating". Same with the fact that wanting people to vote is now a partisan issue--say plainly that one side is committed to disenfranchising citizens! But no, the Times reverts to agnosticism on this issue. Who are they to judge? They just observe.

Hence one of the points Rosen hammers--figure out what you are for as a journalistic enterprise. It shouldn't be a partisan "we're for Biden" but it has to be something.
posted by mark k at 12:52 PM on January 26 [9 favorites]


It's not being fired for being political, or having chills, but this editor was canned for tweeting about the paper's corporate overlords being too cheap to pay for Microsoft Excel for staffers.
posted by zenzenobia at 3:57 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Given the existence of LibreOffice Calc, which does almost all of what Excel does and a few things it doesn't, runs on every desktop platform, is free, and is only moderately more annoying than Excel, it's a shame she chose that particular hill to die on.
posted by flabdablet at 11:03 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


That Vanity Fair piece from Joe Pompeo vaguely uses "a number of senior Times sources" (what, telling us the actual number would be too much work?) to claim Wolfe was a repeat offender with no specifics. There's more detail in the interview CJR did with Wolfe, where she discusses that incident and says the NYT is lying about what happened at her firing:

I asked Wolfe if there had been prior issues with her conduct on social media; the only incident she could think of was last fall, when she was warned by the standards editor that some of her tweets were bordering on inappropriate. Paraphrasing, she says that the post at issue "was something like ‘Conservatives who won’t wear masks are an example of extreme toxic masculinity.’" ...Wolfe was left with the impression that it was a routine review of the social media policy and after deleting the tweet thought the matter was resolved.

And:

But in this instance, the Times’ statement—specifically, its insinuation that there had been a pattern of behavior—is Wolfe’s main complaint. “I don’t want to be hired back,” she says. “What I want is for them to retract this bullshit statement that makes me sound like some shitty employee that they used this as a final excuse for.”
posted by mediareport at 5:56 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Huh. Tom Llamas just closed tonight's ABC World News Tonight, which he's been the weekend anchor of since 2014, by saying that it was his last ABC broadcast. He gave a very moving short monologue about being a child of immigrants (Cuban refugees according to wiki) and the American dream. No reason for leaving was brought up, but Wikipedia says he's going to NBC.
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 4:12 PM on January 31


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