Well, well, well ... ex-NYT editor notices how 'narcissistic' the Times has become

Remember Pauline Kael?

The late New Yorker magazine movie critic, who supposedly didn't understand how Richard Nixon could win an election because she didn't know anyone who voted for him, or more precisely, who said (in the New York Times):  "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them." ...now seems to have taken up residence at the New York Times, which ought to be red-faced at its failure to notice the rise of 28-year-old openly socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her shock victory in a New York City primary, right the Times' own back yard.

So was the verdict by one of the Times' own former editors, Jill Abramson, who stated the obvious in a tweet:

 

https://t.co/9EjYhKDYs5
Kind of pisses me off that @nytimes is still asking Who Is Ocasio-Cortez? when it should have covered her campaign. Missing her rise akin to not seeing Trump's win coming in 2016.

— Jill Abramson (@JillAbramson) June 27, 2018

 

Well, yeah. You'd think that with their staff, one of them would deign to pay a visit to the bridge and tunnel crowd in Bronx and Queens (horrors!) and try to find out what the election there was all about. They didn't. Even out here from San Diego, knowing how progressive those people in New York are, it wasn't that big a shock to learn that a Bernie-ite, with a really cool campaign graphic designer, and a simple promise of jobs for all, would probably walk away with it. But to the Times, it was a 'Who is...' scramble. Here's how bad it was, as described by the Daily Beast:

Indeed, a quick review of the Times’ coverage of the primary race turned up mention of and quotes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in two news stories prior to Election Night, and a few name-checks in editorials—one of which, published in the June 20 print edition, noted that she’s “a challenger [Crowley] is heavily favored to beat.”

“Missing her rise [is] akin to not seeing Trump’s win coming in 2016,” Abramson added in her tweet—an even more biting reference to the Timesself-acknowledged failings in the paper’s reporting of the presidential campaign.

Abramson rightly pointed to narcissism in the newsroom for the problem (which is considerably similar to the Los Angeles Times' failure to report any news of that great metropolis outside the narrow interests of its Santa Monica-Venice denizens), and says that in her experience teaching young journalists, there's too much interest in writing about themselves, instead of writing about America as it is. No wonder such people need to go on safari to Ohio.

Apparently, when you're elitist and looking for status, you only report news of the groups that will help you get that status. You don't go to Queens for that.

The other problem, which she didn't note, is who the Pulitzer committee is rewarding. Not the guys who go to Queens and do the shoeleather reporting of the facts on the ground - but the reporters who specialize in anonymous leaks from Deep State Trump-haters on the Russia-Russia-Russia theme, and then work that beat to the hilt, an incentive so strong it leads to downright sleeping with sources to get it, as the famous case of New York Times reporter Ali Watkins shows. Lovebird journalism is what gets the honors now, and in the world of the Times, that's what is being rewarded.

What's interesting is that the Times dismisses Abramson's rather valid, journalism-professor-y criticisms (she really does remind me of the eccentric, but very good, journalism professors I had at Columbia journalism school), stating the Tom Wolfe-ian reality that reporters need to get off their duffs, dump the self-referential narcissism (and skeevy sourcing), and go report the actual news. As the Economist put it:

Mr Wolfe thought that America’s literary elite were missing the biggest story on earth—their own country. Ensconced in their Manhattan lofts and writer-in-residence programmes they were fixated on the minor doings of their own caste rather than the mega-doings of the people who inhabited the American sub-continent. “At this weak, pale, tabescent moment in the history of American literature,” Mr Wolfe wrote in one of his manifestos, “we need a battalion, a brigade, of Zolas to head out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, hog-stomping, Baroque country of ours and reclaim it as literary property.”

Yet incredibly, the Times disagreed with Abramson's criticisms of just this issue. According to the Beast:

In response to Abramson’s critique—which she elaborated in several emailed comments shared with the Times—Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told The Daily Beast: “We have enormous respect for Jill and deeply appreciate her passion. Criticism and feedback helps us do better work and we’re always open to it. On these specifics though, we just disagree with Jill.” A few hours after Abramson’s tweet, the headline phrase that pissed her off, “Who is Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez?” was changed online to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A 28-Year-Old Democratic Giant Slayer.”

Pauline Kael is alive and well at the New York Times. Too bad Tom Wolfe isn't.

 

Image credit: Oregon State University, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Remember Pauline Kael?

The late New Yorker magazine movie critic, who supposedly didn't understand how Richard Nixon could win an election because she didn't know anyone who voted for him, or more precisely, who said (in the New York Times):  "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them." ...now seems to have taken up residence at the New York Times, which ought to be red-faced at its failure to notice the rise of 28-year-old openly socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her shock victory in a New York City primary, right the Times' own back yard.

So was the verdict by one of the Times' own former editors, Jill Abramson, who stated the obvious in a tweet:

 

https://t.co/9EjYhKDYs5
Kind of pisses me off that @nytimes is still asking Who Is Ocasio-Cortez? when it should have covered her campaign. Missing her rise akin to not seeing Trump's win coming in 2016.

— Jill Abramson (@JillAbramson) June 27, 2018

 

Well, yeah. You'd think that with their staff, one of them would deign to pay a visit to the bridge and tunnel crowd in Bronx and Queens (horrors!) and try to find out what the election there was all about. They didn't. Even out here from San Diego, knowing how progressive those people in New York are, it wasn't that big a shock to learn that a Bernie-ite, with a really cool campaign graphic designer, and a simple promise of jobs for all, would probably walk away with it. But to the Times, it was a 'Who is...' scramble. Here's how bad it was, as described by the Daily Beast:

Indeed, a quick review of the Times’ coverage of the primary race turned up mention of and quotes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in two news stories prior to Election Night, and a few name-checks in editorials—one of which, published in the June 20 print edition, noted that she’s “a challenger [Crowley] is heavily favored to beat.”

“Missing her rise [is] akin to not seeing Trump’s win coming in 2016,” Abramson added in her tweet—an even more biting reference to the Timesself-acknowledged failings in the paper’s reporting of the presidential campaign.

Abramson rightly pointed to narcissism in the newsroom for the problem (which is considerably similar to the Los Angeles Times' failure to report any news of that great metropolis outside the narrow interests of its Santa Monica-Venice denizens), and says that in her experience teaching young journalists, there's too much interest in writing about themselves, instead of writing about America as it is. No wonder such people need to go on safari to Ohio.

Apparently, when you're elitist and looking for status, you only report news of the groups that will help you get that status. You don't go to Queens for that.

The other problem, which she didn't note, is who the Pulitzer committee is rewarding. Not the guys who go to Queens and do the shoeleather reporting of the facts on the ground - but the reporters who specialize in anonymous leaks from Deep State Trump-haters on the Russia-Russia-Russia theme, and then work that beat to the hilt, an incentive so strong it leads to downright sleeping with sources to get it, as the famous case of New York Times reporter Ali Watkins shows. Lovebird journalism is what gets the honors now, and in the world of the Times, that's what is being rewarded.

What's interesting is that the Times dismisses Abramson's rather valid, journalism-professor-y criticisms (she really does remind me of the eccentric, but very good, journalism professors I had at Columbia journalism school), stating the Tom Wolfe-ian reality that reporters need to get off their duffs, dump the self-referential narcissism (and skeevy sourcing), and go report the actual news. As the Economist put it:

Mr Wolfe thought that America’s literary elite were missing the biggest story on earth—their own country. Ensconced in their Manhattan lofts and writer-in-residence programmes they were fixated on the minor doings of their own caste rather than the mega-doings of the people who inhabited the American sub-continent. “At this weak, pale, tabescent moment in the history of American literature,” Mr Wolfe wrote in one of his manifestos, “we need a battalion, a brigade, of Zolas to head out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, hog-stomping, Baroque country of ours and reclaim it as literary property.”

Yet incredibly, the Times disagreed with Abramson's criticisms of just this issue. According to the Beast:

In response to Abramson’s critique—which she elaborated in several emailed comments shared with the Times—Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told The Daily Beast: “We have enormous respect for Jill and deeply appreciate her passion. Criticism and feedback helps us do better work and we’re always open to it. On these specifics though, we just disagree with Jill.” A few hours after Abramson’s tweet, the headline phrase that pissed her off, “Who is Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez?” was changed online to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A 28-Year-Old Democratic Giant Slayer.”

Pauline Kael is alive and well at the New York Times. Too bad Tom Wolfe isn't.

 

Image credit: Oregon State University, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0