In a sign of just how heated this year's presidential election has become, a national political reporter resigned from his post at the New York Observer the day after the weekly newspaper – which is owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law -- endorsed the Republican front-runner a week before Tuesday's GOP primary.
According to an article posted on the Huffington Post website and written by senior media reporter Michael Calderone, Ross Barkan, who had worked at the paper for three years, stated that “a variety of different factors” led to his decision, even though he acknowledged the endorsement – which was published online Tuesday afternoon and appeared in Wednesday’s print edition -- was one of them.
“I’ve been thinking about my next move for a while,” said Barkan, who stated he continues to have respect for editor Ken Kurson and his colleagues even though “the last month has been difficult for me and difficult for some of our colleagues.”
The Observer ... was known for obsessively chronicling New York’s “power elite” in media, real estate and politics.
Its reporters critically, at times gleefully, scrutinized Manhattan’s rarified worlds, and Trump, as one former scribe noted after Tuesday’s ringing endorsement, was a rich target.
“But today’s Observer -- which was purchased in 2006 by real estate scion Jared Kushner, who married Trump’s daughter Ivanka three years later -- sounded downright Trumpian on Tuesday in blasting 'the media elite, the professional political class and the people largely insulated or directly benefiting from the failures of the last seven years.'”
“The media and cultural elite’s inability to grasp the profound alienation, anger and disillusionment of millions of Americans has fueled Mr. Trump’s popularity,” the endorsement read.
In addition, the media’s “enthusiastic embrace of the Obama narrative -- that America should be willing to accept a dimmer future -- has blinded it to the appeal of the Trump candidacy and of an alternative, more compelling narrative.”
“The legacy of Donald Trump’s 30 years of leadership is everywhere -- not only in the tall buildings that bear his name, but in the kitchens of the thousands of families supported by the jobs he’s created,” the endorsement asserted.
After noting that the publisher's relationship with Trump “is not a reason to endorse him,” the editorial stated: “Giving millions of disillusioned Americans a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity is.”
The newspaper's relationship with Trump grew complicated this month, Calderone asserted.
“On April 4, Kurson acknowledged providing input for Trump's speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C.,” he noted. “Trump had said Kushner helped with the speech, which was noted in a piece on the event written by Barkan.”
However, the Huffington Post reporter stated, “Kurson’s input was not mentioned.”
Once a speech-writer for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kurson “dismissed the idea that his reading a draft and providing input was in conflict with his role running the paper.”
“It’s a complicated world, and I don’t intend to let the 11 people who have appointed themselves the journalist police tell me, at age 47, how to behave or to whom I’m allowed to speak,” he told Calderone.
“But hours later, senior politics editor Jill Jorgensen said that Observer staffers, including Kurson, would not be permitted going forward to provide a candidate any assistance,” the reporter indicated.
“Also, Jorgensen said that Observer journalists should be able to cover Trump 'in the same way they cover every other candidate in the presidential race,'” Calderone stated.
“As Trump’s campaign took off last summer, Kurson said the paper wouldn't opine on him,” the reporter continued, “but Tuesday’s endorsement left no doubt where the editorial board stands.”
“Soon after, several journalists and media watchers lamented the state of the paper, which would’ve once feasted on the real estate mogul-turned-reality star on a path to become the Republican presidential nominee,” he noted.
In a Wednesday statement, Kurson said Barkan was “an excellent reporter whose three years at the Observer are much appreciated” and spoke about the timing of the endorsement:
The editorial board decided over the weekend to endorse. I don’t typically alert the staff -- not because it’s some big secret but because usually it’s not of major interest.
In this instance, sensing that endorsing Trump would be of greater interest to the staff, I did notify several staffers beforehand, including Jill Jorgensen, who is Ross’s direct editor.
“Barkan said that a newspaper has a right to endorse candidates as it sees fit,” Calderone stated. “Still, he said that the decision to back Trump caught him off guard.”
It has been said that politics is the process of choosing the lesser of two evils. Hopefully, that won't always include quitting your job – even in this year's hotly contested election.