Bari Weiss, an editor for The New York Times Opinion section who describes herself as a “centrist,” published a scathing resignation letter Tuesday alleging that “intellectual curiosity” is now a liability at the “once-great” newspaper.
Ms. Weiss published her resignation letter addressed to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger on her website, alleging that she was constantly bullied at the publication for her political beliefs and that Mr. Sulzberger “stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage.”
“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times,” Ms. Weiss wrote. “But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. 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. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.
“My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” she continued. “They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, 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. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.”
“We appreciate the many contributions that Bari made to Times Opinion,” she said. “I’m personally committed to ensuring that The Times continues to publish voices, experiences and viewpoints from across the political spectrum in the Opinion report. We see every day how impactful and important that approach is, especially through the outsized influence The Times’s opinion journalism has on the national conversation.”
Ms. Weiss wrote in her resignation letter that she was hired by the paper three years ago as an effort to reach a wider audience following the election of President Trump.
“But the lessons that ought to have followed the election — lessons about 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,” she wrote. “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.”
“Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity — let alone risk-taking — is now a liability at The Times,” she continued. “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.”
Ms. Weiss wrote that there are others at The Times who don’t agree with its editorial direction, but that they’re “cowed by those who do,” perhaps “because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the ‘new McCarthyism’ that has taken root at the paper of record.
“All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they’ll have to do to advance in their careers,” she wrote. “Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.”
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