Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Another journalist speaks up / Follow-up: Poor journalism and journalism as a source of fake news (The New York Times)

with 3 comments

About two months ago, I wrote about problems with the New York Times, including criticism by a 16-year insider of that paper.

Today, I encountered another insiders’ view and see a further validation of both my take on this particular paper and the press and media in general (to some degree, society in general). This long resignation letter by Bari Weiss is worthy of being quoted in full and picking cherries out of it is hard, but the below is an attempt to do so:

[Lessons after Trump’s election:] 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.

Indeed, one of my largest criticism of the press is not that it has the wrong opinions (from my POV), but that journalists see themselves as the “enlightened few” and the rest of us (even those vastly more intelligent, better educated, and well informed) as ignorants who need to be fed pre-processed opinions.

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.

To this I note the two possible interpretations of “BILD dir deine Meinung”, the slogan of BILD, Germany’s largest (and likely worst) news-paper: It could be read as an imperative to “Form your own opinion!”; it could be read as a presumptuous and reader despising “BILD [gives] you your opinion”.

Indeed, the distortions by the press regularly includes filtering out facts that could be interpreted in the “wrong” manner by the readers, leading them to opinions other than the journalists.

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; […] [On Slack], 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.

This repeats the enormous problems that exist e.g. in U.S. colleges, on sports teams, and whatnots. Moreover, note the hypocrisy of using claims for inclusiveness to exclude someone.

Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.

Note: Not “conservative”, not “rightist”, not “Trump supporter”, but actually just “centrist”. The linked to Wikipedia page says “Bari Weiss describes herself as a ‘left-leaning centrist.’ ”, making it even worse … Apparently, someone not solidly “leftist” is not welcome.

But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. […] And so self-censorship has become the norm.

But how can a journalist who is not intellectually curious possibly do a good job? One who self-censors? Both are antithetical to good journalism.

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired.

Persons being fired over expressing the wrong opinion is (sadly) nothing remarkable today and not unheard of even two decades ago. There are two particularly disturbing aspects here, however: (a) The short time-span, which points to a disastrous and disastrously fast trend.* (b) That even journalism is affected. Indeed, here and with some other quotes, it pays to bear in mind that the justification for the press is to a large degree to ensure expression of opinions that might otherwise be silenced and to ensure that someone criticizes what is wrong with society, the government, whatnot, even in the face of suppression attempts. When the press cannot do that or, worse, is complicit in the suppression of opinion, something is very, very foul.

*Note that both this resignation letter and the previous insider view seem to see the Trump election as something of a watershed. (But I consider this to be a bit optimistic about the age of the problems.)

Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these [PC, Leftist, SJW, …] views. Yet they are cowed by those who do.

I have heard similar claims about e.g. the U.S. college situation (at least outside the social sciences) and e.g. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton points in the same direction for the overall population. However, this makes it the more important to take a stand, to not bow to threats, to not “apologize” for having said something “inappropriate” (“racist”, “sexist”, whatnot), to not have a “two thousand ants can’t be wrong—this is a great place for a picnic!” attitude, etc.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 15, 2020 at 1:21 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] blog due to threats that his full identity would be leaked by the New York Times. (Also note other recent concerns about the NYT.) “Scott Alexander” appears to be a part of his true name, which reduces the search space very […]

  2. […] **See e.g. a recent text on NYT. […]

  3. […] **See e.g. a recent text on NYT. […]


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