So much for closing ranks. Perhaps Arthur Sulzberger thought that his newspaper’s rant about conservatives doing to his reporters what they do to conservatives would generate some sympathy from colleagues in the media. Instead, media critics at the Washington Post and Politico delivered the same message to the New York Times’ publisher — stop whining.
The Post’s Erik Wemple wrote that Sulzberger can’t have it both ways. These are public statements of the same kind — and on the same platform — as the media likes to resurface when it suits their purposes. Despite the breathless description used by the Times about the “loose network of conservative operatives” attempting to “discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump,” Wemple points out that it doesn’t really take a “loose network” to accomplish that:
And just what would this “damaging information” be? Illicitly obtained DMs? Gossip about their sexual habits? HIPAA-protected information?
Nope. “Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.” Bolding added to note that this “damaging information” is available not only to a “loose network of conservative operatives” but also to the loose network of everyone with access to the Internet.
On one hand, Sulzberger has punished at least one staffer for his social media posts, and then on the other claimed that such accountability is illegitimate. Wemple’s not buying it:
There’s an incompatibility in the Times story and the Sulzberger memo: On one hand, there’s an attempt to tar the motivations of the “loose network of conservative operatives”; on the other, there’s a stubborn admission that they have brought actionable information to public attention. For decades now, representatives of the mainstream media have answered conservative critiques by imploring: Judge us by the work we produce, not by the fact that more than 90 percent of us are liberal/Democratic. Mainstreamers cannot have it both ways. Cut the idle and unverifiable talk about motivations. If the tweets presented by the “loose network of conservative operatives” are racist or anti-Semitic or otherwise problematic, take action. If they’re nonsensical distractions, ignore them.
At Politico, Jack Shafer scolded Sulzberger from playing the media card, so to speak, when it comes to public speech. If the media wants to impose a standard — and Shafer’s in favor of that — then the media should abide by it:
As much as I would like to sympathize with my fellow journalists, it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to ask them to own or repudiate vile or impolitic things they might have stated in the past. Nor is it remotely unfair for the president’s supporters to demand that journalists, who are forever denouncing him as a racist (because he is), be held accountable for their bigoted speech, on Twitter or anywhere else. Journalists don’t deserve a get-out-of-bigotry-jail free card just because they’re journalists. If their past tweets, however ancient, undercut their current journalistic work or make them sound hypocritical, they can’t blame their diminished prestige on Trump’s allies. It’s like blaming a cop for writing you a ticket for speeding in a school zone. …
Sulzberger tempered his protest toward the end of his memo by writing, “But I also want to be clear: No organization is above scrutiny, including the Times.” But that’s an example of wanting to have it both ways. If the press is not above scrutiny, it shouldn’t bellyache when truth-squaded—even if the best dirt the truth-squaders can surface is encrusted in dust and mold.
Unfortunately, that’s usually what the “truth-squaders” of the media dig up, too. It doesn’t make any difference if the tweets or social media posts went up when the target was a public person, either, or even an adult. As Allahpundit noted, one of the media’s victims was Kyler Murray over tweets he wrote when he was 14 years old.
Personally, I find the idea of trawling through ancient social-media postings a thoroughly idiotic and time-wasting enterprise, but here we are. The conservative activists who are digging through the old social media posts of mainstream-media reporters didn’t write these rules; they are just making sure they get applied evenly. It would be best if people didn’t judge others on their worst social-media moments and allowed for personal growth and maturation, but media outlets like the Times don’t offer that kind of grace. Why should others show it to the Times?
In short: If the Times can’t take it, then it shouldn’t dish it out. Welcome to the New Rules you yourselves wrote.