To start with, this is a case of journalists using their union not to demand greater editorial freedom or journalistic independence — something one would reasonably expect from a journalists’ union — but demanding its opposite: that writers at the New York Times be prohibited by management from expressing their views and perspectives about the controversies surrounding the 1619 Project. In other words: they are demanding that their own journalistic colleagues be silenced and censored. What kind of journalists plead with management for greater restrictions on journalistic expression rather than fewer?
Apparently, the answer is New York Times journalists. Indeed, this is not the first time they have publicly implored corporate management to restrict the freedom of expression and editorial freedom of their journalistic colleagues. At the end of July, the Guild issued a series of demands, one of which was that “sensitivity reads should happen at the beginning of the publication process, with compensation for those who do them.”
For those not familiar with “sensitivity reads”: consider yourself fortunate. As the New York Times itself reported in 2017, “sensitivity readers” have been used by book publishers to gut books that have been criticized, in order to “vet the narrative for harmful stereotypes and suggested changes.” The Guardian explained in 2018 that “sensitivity readers” are a rapidly growing industry in the book publishing world to weed out any implicit bias or potentially objectionable material — not just in storylines but even in characters. It quoted the author Lionel Shriver about the obvious dangers: there is, she said, “a thin line between combing through manuscripts for anything potentially objectionable to particular subgroups and overt political censorship.”