Dec 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

James Bennet says NYT guilty of "illiberal bias" in new Economist takedown

The Economist cover, James Bennet photo

James Bennet. Photo: The Economist

James Bennet — who resigned as editorial page editor of the New York Times in 2020 amid internal fury over an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — hit back Thursday with a 17,000-word cover story for the Economist, where he's now Lexington columnist and senior editor.

Why it matters: The headline signals the takedown he's been saving up: "When the New York Times lost its way."

What they're saying: "As preoccupied as it is with the question of why so many Americans have lost trust in it, the Times is failing to face up to one crucial reason: that it has lost faith in Americans, too," writes Bennet, who was the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, White House correspondent and Detroit bureau chief before becoming editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, then returning to run Opinion at the Times.

  • "The Times was slow to break it to its readers that there was less to Trump's ties to Russia than they were hoping, and more to Hunter Biden's laptop, that Trump might be right that covid came from a Chinese lab."

Zoom in: "Trying to be helpful, one of the top newsroom editors urged me to start attaching trigger warnings to pieces by conservatives. It had not occurred to him how this would stigmatize certain colleagues, or what it would say to the world about the Times's own bias," Bennet continues.

  • "I think many Times staff have little idea how closed their world has become, or how far they are from fulfilling their compact with readers to show the world 'without fear or favor.' And sometimes the bias was explicit: one newsroom editor told me that, because I was publishing more conservatives, he felt he needed to push his own department further to the left."
  • "The Times's problem has metastasized from liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favor one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut debate down altogether," Bennet adds.
  • "The Times could learn something from the Wall Street Journal, which has kept its journalistic poise. It has maintained a stricter separation between its news and opinion journalism, including its cultural criticism, and that has protected the integrity of its work."

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