What went wrong at the New York Times? 

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From Xtra:

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.

11 thoughts on “What went wrong at the New York Times? ”

  1. What went wrong with the NYT is what tends to go wrong with second/later-generation-family-controlled businesses: The Dunning-Kruger effect where “right of inheritance” is taken as proof of “strategic, managerial, and other prowess in a changing technical or business environment.” This gets worse the bigger the company. It’s not exactly new (I hear a whisper of “Edddddselllll” from somewhere near Detroit…).

    And it’s perhaps worse in arts-and-entertainment operations than elsewhere. Just look at the NFL… I suffered through the Chicago Bears being the “official local team” for two decades, but it could have been worse — it could have been Detroit. Or Oakland/Las Vegas. Or… never mind. The less said about the history of inherited music-business firms, the better.

    • Very few big companies are successful for more than a generation, two at the outside.

      It isn’t just descendants. Often successful CEOs appoint a successor based on their ego (clones, yes-men, etc). At best, the operation rolls on on inertia until they hit crisis. At that point odds of survival get iffy without major surgery.

      Not that boards do much better:
      GE, GM come to mind.
      Boeing and Ford are skating on the edge, Apple is a bit back but at serious risk for overcomitting to China. Most of the big German companies can see the abyss from where they stand.

      (Disney is too easy a target. Don’t know what photos Kennedy has but they must be very…persuasive… to keep her in place. Feige probably isn’t sleeping too well given his ROI over the last two years. And he doesn’t have Mandalorian to carry the flag…)

      Reading the trends more than a couple years ahead is hard but reading vulnerabilities isn’t.
      The NYT should’ve seen the handwriting on the wall back in 2013 when Bezos bought the WP.
      If he was getting into their business he must be seeing them as a “wounded gazelle” and he was never going to counterprogram them ala Fox…

      They had 10 years warning.

      • Felix, they had thirty-five years’ warning. The NYT blew its coverage of the 1987 stock-market correction,† Iran-Contra, and a number of other major stories because they would have involved attacking Friends of the Family as corrupt, incompetent, or both.

        Then there’s the way that the NYT responded to losing Tasini: Its “new” contributor agreement for new pieces also claimed (depending on the form used) an irrevocable license to everything that contributor had ever published before through the NYT (or any affiliated publication, such as the Boston Globe)… or the whole copyright. As a condition of present and any future publication, freelancers (not just authors) were required to sign away what had been won in Tasini. Sure, “regular” corporations sometimes act that entitled; later-generation-family-run corporations almost always do. (I can hardly wait to see what Hobby Lobby does next…)

        † If you are as much of a nerd as I am — ok, ok, if you’re in the same galaxy of nerddom as I am — you’ll ponder that during the period from 1987 through 1989, a noticeably high proportion of S&P 500 companies restated earnings and results for all or part of the period from 1985 through 1989. It’s not a coincidence that there was a major tax-code revision in 1984 that became effective in 1985. And it wasn’t covered in the NYT at all.

        • Not even close.
          Stock market gambling didn’t register on my radar back then.
          FWIW, I though MS was pricey at $200. 😐
          (Not that I had kind of liquidity to start with.)

          My nerd credits come from the tech side: as in expecting Windows to steamroll Macintosh from day one.

          • If humanity had been meant to rely on a GUI, there wouldn’t be a command line.

            Or punch cards.

            • Or choice.
              The Windows POWRRSHELL rules.

              I’ve done crazy stuff with batch files.

              Early in the ebook era I got the Gutenberg DVD image, 27000 classics, all ascii text) and a command line “prettifier” and used a handful of batch files to convert them to clean, readable mobi, epub, and lit collections.

              Took the laptop two weeks of 24×7 runtime.

              My device, my choice.

              It’s been ages since I last mesed with UNIX but if I the itch I now can run LINUX inside Windows on my laptop. I keep a bottle of calamine lotion handy, though.

  2. According to the OP, since April 2022 (about eleven months ago) the NYT has published 15,000 words worth of such articles, which is supposed to be this big scary number that indicates that the NYT is constantly beating the anti-trans drum.

    However, when you start doing the math this doesn’t hold water. 15,000 words over the course of eleven months comes out to around 1,300 words per month, which is about the length of one article, maybe two if they’re short.

    I hope I can be forgiven for asking why publishing one article per month that actually asks whether or not it’s a good idea to perform surgeries on minors that will permanently change their bodies in ways that will leave them dependent on pharmaceuticals for the rest of their lives is somehow an indication that the NYT is starting a crusade against trans people.

  3. Dunno, but the OP sounds like somebody is trying to inject some common sense into the madhouse, reminding them that as *mass* media, they make their money from the entirety of the populace and not just the 5% extreme left fringe. The topic the chose being the most clearcut subject and something that even classic “kneejerk liberals” can sign on to. It’s not like they’re endorsing modern mini nuclear reactors over wind turbines. (Which they should.) Baby steps.

    Ideological activists make a lot of noise but deliver very little bottom line cash, even in NYC.
    Times have long been tough for the surviving papers and only look to get worse. And even at $4 a copy their dropping readership is biting the bottom line hard.


    At some point somebody needs to remind the inmates that without money the paper folds. Or Sinclair buys it out. 😀

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