Some New York Times news not fit to print in the New York Times
With its smug motto "All the News That's Fit to Print" emblazoned on the front page of the dead tree edition for over 120 years and also proudly stamped on products they hawk such as this T-shirt (Made in Portugal, by the way, which really illustrates what they think is fit to print) you just know the New York Times believes that it is the final arbiter of truth and rightthink.
But apparently news happens even if it doesn't hit the paper/online pages of the Times. And one of the newsworthy events that happened is respected, longtime NYT reporter Donald McNeil, Jr. directly quoted someone else, including a vile word for Blacks, to a group of extremely wealthy, extremely insulated but extremely woke teens for a lesson. While McNeil made it perfectly clear that he did not approve of the word but used it in context to show how abhorrent it was, the delicate young wokesters complained to the New York Times powers that be, namely publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who immediately succumbed. And poof! — McNeil was gone from the Times. But you wouldn't know about it if you read the Times. Apparently, this was not news fit to print.
However, one prominent Times columnist, Bret Stephens, thought the situation fit to print and so wrote a column about McNeil's sudden disappearance from the paper. But Sulzberger censored...uh, also didn't think it was fit to print, so the column was canceled and never appeared in the paper. However, people will talk, especially media people, even NYT personnel, so news of Stephens's wrongthink cancelation got around, and somehow or other, the column itself reached the editors of another New York media outlet — and oh, please, sniff, sniff, don't call them a competitor — the New York Post. And naturally, the Post thought a Times columnists' insights fit to print, publishing "his spiked column here in full."
Click on the link, and you too can read a Times column in the Post consisting of "an argument about three words: 'Regardless of intent.'"
WARNING: If you are a devoted Times reader you will be offended. If you are not a devoted Times reader, you will be even more puzzled about why McNeil was fired and why Stephens's column was published not by his employer, but by another media outlet with a very different customer base.
The fit to print/not fit to print brouhaha continued. A few days later, former Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who was unceremoniously dumped from her prestigious position there several years ago for another reason seemingly not fit to print, offered her explanation of the situation at her former employer in the...nope! Not the New York Times, but, again, also in the Post.
Again, a similar WARNING to the previous is in effect before you proceed.
I do have a unique perspective that I'm eager to share. I know what it feels like to be pushed out of an important job at the Times in a public manner, as was the case when I was fired as executive editor in 2014.
It's painful beyond words to have a career cut short at the Times, especially when a life-altering decision about a great journalist's career is made by its leaders under duress and under intense public scrutiny. These are not the best conditions for considered, fair decision-making.
I also know what the Times feels like from the inside when it is beset by one of these controversies. It's destabilizing, and even the best managers can feel as though their heads are spinning. It's easy to feel as if the whole world is watching when, in truth, only journalists glued to Twitter are watching. I was there for the raging days of Jason Blair and Judy Miller.
Have readers been adversely affected by what's happened inside the NYT or by Mr. McNeil's behavior? Given what I know, and there is still information I don't know, I think not.
Because of McNeil's resignation, readers are being denied his vital reporting on COVID-19 at an inopportune moment. Were they impacted by whatever he said to a group of kids on a trip in 2019? I think not. Did McNeil's utterance of a racial slur word with no intent to harm anyone hurt readers? Again, I think the answer is no, although as someone who teaches college students, I would never say this word myself.
Sigh. Truth is even more complicated, more diverse than even the Times will print. But that's not news. But it is fit to print.
Image: N.Y. Times.