NY Times: Publication of Sen. Cotton's op-ed fell short of the paper's standards (Update)

Several hours ago, Allahpundit wrote about the backlash to the NY Times decision to publish an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton advocating that President Trump use troops to stop riots and looting in American cities. At the time he wrote that, the Times was still defending the publication. Editorial page editor James Bennet published a piece which said in part:

We published Cotton’s argument in part because we’ve committed to Times readers to provide a debate on important questions like this. It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.

But just over an hour ago the NY Times reversed course. Times’ media writer Marc Tracy and two other reporters just published a new piece in which the Times said publication of the essay was beneath its standards:

Near the end of the day, James Bennet, the editor in charge of the opinion section, said in a meeting with staff members that he had not read the essay before it was published. Shortly afterward, The Times issued a statement saying the essay fell short of the newspaper’s standards.

“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication,” Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish.”

This from the paper that published excerpts from Mein Kampf on June 22, 1941, the day the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union.

So what is going on here? How did the Times go from resisting the backlash to falling in line and deciding to publish fewer op-eds in the future? According to NY Times columnist Bari Weiss, there’s a civil war taking place inside the NY Times between the older liberal set that still believes in the traditional notion of free speech and the younger, woke crowd at the paper that wants to create a safe space.

At least a dozen NY Times employees are now trashing Weiss over this thread and denying this is an accurate reflection of what is going on internally.

One thing we can count on is that if there’s any way for the media to go on another rant about Bari Weiss they will take that opportunity. So don’t be surprised if later tonight or tomorrow you see a long story from some progressive tech writer arguing about all the specific ways in which Weiss was wrong and quoting from various anonymous sources at the Times who are eager to drag her.

But the bottom line is that there has been major disagreement at the Times over the publication of something that polls show most Americans support (just as Weiss pointed out). Whatever painful, nuanced discussion they are having behind the scenes, the outcome is a binary choice. Either they should have published the op-ed or they should not have. At first they said the former, but just hours later they are saying the latter. That does suggest the internal backlash has had an impact.

The irony is that the Times has now decided it would have been better not to facilitate a public conversation about the content of Sen. Cotton’s op-ed even though that’s exactly the conversation Times staffers are having in private. It’s okay for them to talk about it’s merits and flaws, but at the end of the day they don’t really trust the rest of us to have the same conversation. They are rejecting what Bennet wrote earlier in defense of publication, i.e. that their job is, “not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.” It turns out a lot of people at the Times would just rather just tell you what to think.

Update: Someone is enjoying the battle inside the Times.

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