Something has gone very wrong at the New York Times. Unfortunately, no one is allowed to tell you what it is. Since new executive editor Joe Kahn took control in April 2022—hold that date in your mind, because it’s important—the paper has published what a widely-quoted Popula article by Tom Scocca estimates as “more than 15,000 words’ worth of front-page stories asking whether care and support for young trans people might be going too far or too fast,” amounting to what Scocca (and basically every trans person who reads the paper) calls a “plain old-fashioned newspaper crusade.”
The anti-trans pivot at the Times is sharp. It’s notable. It has been protested in open letters from GLAAD and over 4,000 current and former Times contributors (including me). And—as Kahn reminded colleagues, in a sharply worded memo addressing those open letters—the Times has absolutely no interest in changing course. Nor are staffers allowed to comment on this coverage in social media, interviews or, indeed, any “public forum.” Staffers who signed the open letter have reportedly been subject to “investigation” and disciplinary action; the crackdown has been so harsh that the NewsGuild of New York has stepped in, noting that under its auspices, protest “is concerted activity protected by the National Labor Relations Board.”
It’s not uncommon for legacy media outlets to control their staffers’ public output—witness the Washington Post’s treatment of Felicia Sonmez, who was forbidden to report on sexual assault due to her status as a survivor, then fired for tweeting about sexism at the Post—but it does pose an obstacle to outside reporting and activism. Those who know what’s happening at the Times aren’t allowed to speak about it, and those who speak about it aren’t allowed to know what’s going on.
This matters, because the Times is not just a media outlet: it is an institution, the paper of record, considered by many to be the gold standard of journalism to which most other reputable outlets aspire, and the standard set by its trans reporting is incredibly dangerous. There is no epidemic of trans teens being rushed through medical transition by overly permissive doctors; trans people struggle to access healthcare at every age, and it has never been easy, let alone too easy, to be a trans child in the U.S. The articles claiming otherwise are recycling talking points that recognizably and overtly originate from anti-trans groups, some of whom have explicitly told the Times that their goal is to outlaw any form of medical transition. Representatives from anti-trans groups are sometimes quoted in the pieces themselves, without the Times disclosing their affiliations or agendas. Clueless transphobia is common enough, but what’s coming out of the Times is something else; it is propaganda disguised as objective reporting.
Link to the rest at Xtra
PG notes that all legacy media and more than a few of the non-legacy media control/manage their staffers’ output – what gets published.
As PG has mentioned in a previous post The New York Times has been experiencing a steady loss of subscribers since before COVID. PG takes that to mean that a lot of its former readers don’t like what it’s been publishing. They vote on content in the Times with their dollars.