Ben Smith, former media columnist for the New York Times who recently launched the media site Semafor, plunged himself into his old paper’s current identity crisis, both in the eyes of Wall Street and its ultra-liberal readership.
After laying out what the crisis means to its share price, Smith focused on the mortifying story of James Bennet, former editorial page editor and “onetime heir apparent to run the Times,” who riled up the paper’s internal left-wing mob and was summarily fired for the audacity of running an op-ed by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) that called for military intervention to stop rioting and looting in the wake of protests about the police killing of George Floyd. (Check out the cringe-worthy editor’s note attached to the top of Cotton's op-ed, that Bennet now says he was compelled to sign.)
Two high-profile moments from that period continue to define the paper’s public brand for many readers: The firing of opinion editor James Bennet over a column by Senator Tom Cotton that called for sending the military into cities to suppress rioters and looters; and the company’s broad embrace of the 1619 Project’s provocative reinterpretation of slavery’s place in American history.
Indeed, the paper’s now-infamous “educational” 1619 Project, tied to the 400th anniversary of slavery in North America tied slavery to American capitalism, Atlanta traffic jams, even accounting procedures.
The Times has made internal efforts to quiet progressive shrieking and modify the paper’s content.
….editors have assigned a set of skeptics to write about some of the most sensitive issues in the American arguments about race and health and identity. Some were insiders, like Michael Powell, whose work has often contrasted rhetorical concern with racial justice and the realities of class….The former books editor Pamela Paul became a blunt object on the opinion page, whacking away at conflicts over cancel-culture and appropriation that had burned their way through Twitter.
Bennet talked to Smith for his first interview about his shabby treatment at the hands of top Times management. Bennet believes that the paper’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger “blew the opportunity to make clear that the New York Times doesn’t exist just to tell progressives how progressives should view reality. That was a huge mistake and a missed opportunity for him to show real strength,” he said…
Bennet was quoted saying of top management, “they want to have the applause and the welcome of the left, and now there’s the problem on top of that that they’ve signed up so many new subscribers in the last few years and the expectation of those subscribers is that the Times will be Mother Jones on steroids.”
Bennet, who spent 19 years of his career at the Times, said he remains wounded by Mr. Sulzberger’s lack of loyalty.
“This is why I was so bewildered for so long after I had what felt like all my colleagues treating me like an incompetent fascist.”
The clearly political sacrifice of Bennet to the woke household gods inside the Times torched the paper’s already risible claim to political balance.