Oct 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

New York Times faces internal editorial battles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ben Smith’s column Sunday night, diving into the saga behind star correspondent Rukmini Callimachi’s reporting on terrorism, is the latest piece of criticism that the New York Times faces from within.

Why it matters: Recent examples of internal critiquing at the Times calls into question whether the Times and other companies should have eliminated the role of public editor.

  • Absent public editors, news giants are left to their readers, Twitter critics and internal voices to hold themselves accountable to their own editorial standards. The Times has established an online "reader center" which it says has helped it make smarter decisions and explain coverage better.

Other examples: Conservative opinion writer Bret Stephens published a critique on Friday of the company's lauded "1619" project for trying to reframe history. The New York Times Guild sent out a tweet denouncing the article, but quickly retracted it and later apologized for the mishap.

  • Earlier this year, the Times' editorial page editor James Bennet resigned after facing backlash from employees for green-lighting an op-ed by conservative Sen. Tom Cotton.

Be smart: A series of social change movements may have also empowered reporters to examine the standards and practices of their own companies.

Our thought bubble: The public editor role was meant to formalize critiques of a company from the inside, so as to avoid awkward disclosures and conflicts of interest. Smith notes that tension in his piece.

  • "Mr. Baquet and Mr. Kahn, I should note here, are my boss’s boss’s boss and my boss’s boss, respectively, and my writing about the Times while on its payroll brings with it all sorts of potential conflicts of interest and is generally a bit of a nightmare."
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