New York Times op-ed editor resigns

June 7, 2020 • 4:10 pm

The dust hasn’t yet settled on the New York Times editorial fracas—the one I wrote about this morning when the publication of Tom Cotton’s op-ed set off a conflagration fueled by social-media opprobrium and NYT staffer outrage. So, less than an hour ago, the Times announced that its Editorial Page editor, James Bennet, resigned. (He was probably pushed out.)

Here’s their terse announcement:

James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by a senator calling for military force against protesters in American cities.

“Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” said A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher, in a note to staff. “James and I agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.”

Jim Dao, the deputy editorial page editor who oversees Op-Eds, is stepping down from his position, which was on the Times masthead, and taking a new job in the newsroom, Mr. Sulzberger said. Katie Kingsbury, a deputy editorial page editor, will be the acting editorial page editor though the November election, Mr. Sulzberger said.

Who’s next to go? Bari Weiss? (I hope not!)

Wikipedia adds that Bennet never read Cotton’s editorial, but that it was invited, and that’s a pretty bad dereliction of duty.  All in all, though I’m not usually one for Schadenfreude, I have a good case of it this time. The Times caved in to the Woke, with the result that it fired its op-ed editor, and now has egg on its face. But that’s only one of a dozen cackle fruits that have besmirched its visage in the last couple of years.

The paper ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit, and it’s sad that it’s one of about three “good” newspapers left in this country. The guy who should really resign, though, is A. G. Sulzberger, the paper’s publisher. For it is A. G. S. who has brought the paper to its nadir of pandering to identity politics.

52 thoughts on “New York Times op-ed editor resigns

  1. Hard to believe that this is a coincidence. Firing a person over this is petty and stupid. It seem the NYT is intent on destroying their credibility.

  2. “The guy who should really resign, though, is A. G. Sulzberger, the paper’s publisher. For it is A. G. S. who has brought the paper to its nadir of pandering to identity politics.”

    We see here the cost of nepotism in a company.

  3. “… lead the department through a period of considerable change.”

    That doesn’t sound so good. Trump will now tweet “the struggling NY Times” with some truth.

  4. I can see why the editorial page editor would have to go if he (or his team on his behalf) had invited Cotton to provide an op-ed piece, which was clearly likely to be contrary to the usual NYT take on things and therefore internally controversial, but then didn’t read the actual text before it was published. The NYT has no excuse for back-pedalling on having printed Cotton’s views though – and surely the final version must have been signed off by someone above Bennet and Dao’s paygrades? As ever when there’s a problem “heads will roll”, but usually not those of the people at the top.

      1. Agreed, although plagiarism and falsification were much more serious than anything alleged here. Nevertheless, the NYT’s senior editorial team have questions to answer about their own judgement in 1) allowing Cotton’s op-ed to appear (given what they now see as its faults) and 2) initially defending it, if it turns out to be so indefensible.

    1. I’m no journalist but isn’t it standard practice to publish an invited op-ed unedited? Of course, not reading it is unforgivable. If that is indeed the case, then it may explain why it wasn’t originally accompanied by any warnings or rebuttals. On yet another hand, if one invites an editorial from someone like Cotton, it would be only fair to warn them that they may rebut it.

  5. A bucket of warm spit? The paper has done some of the best reporting on the Trump administration, and is one of the best sources of legitimate news in the free world. And the majority of its editorials are thoughtful and well reasoned. Outside of them and WaPo, almost all other print media in this country are dominated by a few media companies that are increasingly controlled by vulture capitalists who are dismantling them.

    Focusing on its flaws, and it clearly has them, and wishing for its demise I think are misplaced sentiments. At a time when liberal democracies around the world are being increasingly threatened by fascism, we need the kind or resources they have for investigative reporting more than ever.

      1. I can back up my assertions with a list of their investigative reports of just the last three years. They’re the only ones who had the resources to document Trump’s finances and business dealings, which included extensive documentation that Trump had in fact received over 400 million from his father, not the 1 million he claimed. There’s a long list of similar stories, revealing the family’s corrupt business practices and disproving his false claims on any number of topics.

        And that’s just on Trump. They’re an invaluable resource in documenting the truth or lack thereof in a wide range of topics.

        Keep in mind that each of those investigations cost several hundred thousand dollars to produce. Few other organizations are willing to spend the money to do this.

        And they run editorials every day. Perhaps the Cotton one was misguided, although I’m of the opinion that we need to know the arguments of people like that if we’re going to deconstruct them. Their fault was in not deconstructing it, not in running it.

        So how do you back up your assertion?

      2. It is, of course, possible for both things to be true — that the NYT has deteriorated and that it remains better than nearly all its competition among this nation’s ever- shrinking national press.

        And, you ask me, one of the ways the Times has deteriorated is in its too frequent resort to “both-sidesism” — by credulously printing the bullshit issuing from Team Trump regarding Dear Leader’s enemies. That was the case during the run-up to the 2016 election (see, e.g., The Times‘ excerpting of the bogus claims made in the trashy, debunked book Clinton Cash), and it remains the case since (see, e.g., the credence The Times gave Rudy Giuliani’s batty Ukraine claims).

        1. The newspaper business overall has of course deteriorated significantly over the last two decades. But go back 70 or 100 years and you’ll see even worse than today. We had a golden age of journalism in the second half of the 20th century.

          But even during those good times the business has always been bumpy and has never had a shortage of critics. Every major paper has some scandal in its past of badly mismanaged journalism. It’s just not possible to run a huge volume of daily stories and features without screwing up some day.

          1. You’ll get no argument from me in defense of the yellow-journalism days of Hearst and Pulitzer.

        2. one of the ways the Times has deteriorated is in its too frequent resort to “both-sidesism”

          – dangerously, in the view of some experts –

  6. If this is what takes place from words it is a good thing these folks are not doing things. It’s like having the critics take over.

  7. Dr. Coyne, which newspapers do you now think are among the best?

    In addition, I wonder if what the new guard at the New York Times will do is use the paper’s considerable resources to investigate people who it sees as enemies of its ideologies.

    There will be little complaint from corporate sources since the agenda of the new guard in no way compromises the business model on which large companies depend: globalization, meaning the exporting of jobs, automation, and the importing of low-wage workers (high-wage in tech largely) which has kept a lid of blue collar workers of all colors.

    And using public moneys to cover the difference between what it costs to live and what companies pay. Essentially off-loading onto the public purse a private cost of good sold.

    This takes place in the globalized city, meaning cities in which the largely white center is rich, surrounded by poor, crowded neighborhoods. It’s a model that replicates whether it’s Paris or London or New York……

    1. The (London) Telegraph. It’s “Tory”–not nearly the same as “right-wing”–but it’s news coverage is excellent and pretty unsparing, even of those that its editorial page champions.

    2. “Dr. Coyne, which newspapers do you now think are among the best?”

      The Chicago Tribune, of course. Its series on Honey the duck is Pulitzer-worthy. 🙂

        1. Yes, the Washington Post is good. And cheap! (I’m Scottish, not Jewish.) I subscribe to the WSJ too, but I’m going to terminate because I am pissed off by the way they overcharge their subscribers.

          1. I wish the Tampa Bay Times (nee St. Petersburg Times) were more than a “regional” paper. It’s a good paper, and it has the huge advantage of being owned by the non-profit Poynter Institute, thanks to the largesse of Nelson Poynter. Now there was a rich guy who did a fine thing for the Free Press.

    3. I do subscribe to the POST because it was cheap and good.

      The Wall Street Journal is so expensive! What $400/year for digital subscription? No!!!!

  8. Who’s next to go? Bari Weiss? (I hope not!)

    I don’t see THAT happening — though wasn’t she once banished to Australia, the way the poet Ovid was exiled by the Roman emperor Augustus to Toomis on the banks of the Black Sea, there to labor among the Pontic Greeks, whose language was at least as odd to his ear as the Australian dialect must’ve been to Weiss’s? 🙂

  9. Professor Coyne, you and your favorite Bari Weiss rightly bemoan the rise of identity politics, but by focusing all of your wrath on the peccadilloes on the the left you don’t seem to recognize that this country has already become split into tribes, and the strongest tribe is not the “woke”, and the left in general, but the Trumpsters. Now you may not wish to think of yourself as being part of a tribe, but it has happened whether we wanted it or not. Believe me that’s how those assholes see you and me and they hate us. Someone of your ancestry, in particular, should be be sensitive to that and wary. Yet you seem far more afraid and contemptuous of the woke than of the fascists. Respectfully sir, this continues to puzzle me. If it ever does come to a reckoning (possibly any day now) I’ll be happy to have the woke, anti-Trump republicans, wishy washy centriasts, Joe Biden, and/or any warm body that hates that asshole on my side.
    As for the NYT, objectivity in journalism is not synonymous with neutrality, not should it be.

    1. My brief is to call out the tribe to which I belong, not to go after Trump, which you can find on my places. My loathing for Trump and the Republicans are well known.

      You, sir, clearly haven’t read this website.

      And which tribe do you think I belong to?

      This is one of the most misinformed comments I’ve had to suffer on this site, and it comes from somebody who clearly is abysmally ignorant of my views. You want me to spend all my time going after Trump like everybody else. Fuhgeddaboutit. Other people like HuffPost and the NYT do it all the time.

      And seriously, you don’t think I’ve written about tribalism before?

      Sorry, but I’ll have to ask you to bone up on what I’ve written here before you make a comment as ignorant as the one you just made.

      1. Sir, respectfully, I have read what you post extensively. If it is not clear to you, what I have said here is that we are facing a clear and present danger now that should be focusing all of out attention, and it’s not coming from the left. What tribe? Not a lifetime ago both our fathers fought the Nazi’s to a standstill, now here they are again, and they have the same targets. You know damn well that what tribe I mean. Are you now faulting me for political incorrectness for stating the obvious? But, hell, were all in that boat now, so I’ll claim membership in the tribe that’s not Trump.
        I’ll freely admit that my comments come from fear, fear of the enemy who’s at the gates, and not nagging little voices that amount to nothing.
        So long.

        1. Clearly you’re in the wrong place since you think that 100% of all discussion should be about Trump. What a boring newspaper you would put out. I will, however, recommend that you spend your time at HuffPost, where you will find no criticism of the Left, nor mention of the things they do that could help hand the election to Trump. Yes, they focus ALL OF THEIR ATTENTION ON TRUMP.

          What a boring discourse you envision!

        2. I stand in agreement with the thoughtful comments of jrswtnam. Our political situation is so awful right now that even summarizing recent events is exhausting and depressing, but here: A member of the United States Senate called for violent suppression of U.S. citizens peaceably assembling and petitioning for redress of grievances, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. He used the phrase “no quarter,” the meaning of which he clearly knows or should know: Kill the defeated without the opportunity for surrender.

          To put the New York Times’s appropriately firm response to their mistake of giving a forum for such a dangerous despotic authoritarian on the level of campus safe spaces and the like raises a little tremor of fear inside me that our esteemed host may be falling into a perilous false equivalence, motivated no doubt by his strong sense of fair play.

          Fair play works when you have fair players, not when the jackboots are on the march.

          1. He did not call for violent suppression of citizens who were peaceable; did you read his letter? I would be interested in your singling out that exact passage to me. Again, I think his views are badly misguided, but I fear our esteemed commenter is doing a Chicken Little by thinking that Cotton’s editorial is going to cause killing and clashes between peaceable citizens and the military. The fact is that it didn’t, and that it didn’t was predictable.

            And sorry, Ed, but I resent your insinuation that I’m making a false equivalency between the speech that YOU, Ed, deem shouldn’t be heard, and the speech that OTHERS deem shouldn’t be heard (that includes Steve Bannon, Ben Shapiro, and others). Other people have made the same argument you have against letting Bannon, Shapiro, James Murray, and Milo Yianapoulus. It seems that you have set yourself up as the decider who decides what speech is to be heard and what cannot. I don’t accept your judgments.

            Unless speech violates the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment, it is “free.” The NYT didn’t have to publish that editorial, but after it did it should have stood by the principles of free speech.

            I guess you think Trump’s tweets or speeches shouldn’t be republished either; after all, they’re far worse than Cotton’s.

          2. “He used the phrase “no quarter,” the meaning of which he clearly knows or should know: Kill the defeated without the opportunity for surrender.”

            This is not a fair interpretation given the context. He might mean that and he might not. As Wikipedia says:

            “According to some modern American dictionaries a person who is given no quarter is “not treated kindly” or “treated in a very harsh way”.”

            I’m not trying to defend Cotton but I think we need to give the same amount of leeway with the Right as with the Left. It certainly is a choice of words that a rebuttal should call out for examination and clarification.

              1. Even so, I don’t think it is fair to just assume it outside of a military-on-military operation. As I said, I have no problem calling him on it. I’m just not in favor of quietly reading it as “kill the demonstrators”. From a practical point of view, it would be helpful if Cotton were asked and he said, “No, I meant kill.” If he says, “I meant to arrest them and charge them rather than letting them go with a warning.” then we might have beaten him back to a more reasonable position.

    1. Michael Bennet wasn’t enough of a big-shot in the Democratic Party to win a single delegate (or get above 0.3% support) as a presidential candidate. 🙂

  10. Mehdi “Cattle” Hasan is miffed that two other journalists that he doesn’t like (Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens), are still at the NYT.

    They both happen to be Jews.

    I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

  11. With all due respect, I disagree. The problems at the Times have been with the op-ed page, not the reporting, which is independent of the editorial content. In fact, the quality of Times reporting, at least in my opinion, has been superb. The op-ed page, on the other hand, under Bennet, has, to put it mildly, been weak. He had to go – not because of one decision (soliciting Cotton’s piece) but because of a consistent pattern of poor decision making.

    1. I think I agree here. How does one unsubscribe to the op-ed section and keep the news? I think we had a form of this discussion before when we talked about subbing to the NYT for Maggie Haberman.

  12. A major reason for the success of the Republicans in general over the past 50 years and Trump in 2016 in particular has been their ability to divide those who to one degree or the other consider themselves on the left. Thus, for example, the ideological rigidity of the Woke and the overreaction in response by those who profess to be liberals to an essentially small part of those who compose the left can only help Trump in November. It is not hyperbolic to state that the coming election will be the most important since 1860. If Trump stays in office for another four years the country may be beyond repair. Even his leaving next year will make repair difficult, perhaps taking decades. Thus, it pains me deeply to see those who oppose Trump taking pot shots at each other. There must be absolute unity among those on the left, even if it only lasts to November. Nothing else, I repeat nothing else, is more important than seeing Trump defeated. If he wins, bitter recriminations will fly. My response will be: why don’t you ever learn?

    1. You could argue that ‘The Left’ is implicitly divisive pretty much everywhere. Why that is so probably needs an essay, but in too-brief summary the Right tends to hang together and the Left tends schism over political purity issues.

      Trump is awful, no doubt at all. But I regard him as a consequence, not the cause.

  13. Actually I think the answer to this is rather simple – just keep in mind the difference between reporting and opinion. Maggie Haberman, Emily Cochrane (proud to share her last name, spelled correctly) and others do the former; Paul Krugman, Ross Douthat and Tim Egan (to name a few) do the latter. I read all of them (and pay my 10 bucks a month), but I process them (I think) appropriately. For example, I love Krugman, but I don’t think of his columns as news.

  14. And as a coda, perhaps a reminder of what the First Amendment actually says: “ Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Note that it says nothing about requiring the New York Times (or for that matter any private organization) to provide a platform for any and all speech. And the religion part is more difficult that some would portray – it bans the establishment but also the restriction of free exercise. That doesn’t fit into simple narratives on any side.

  15. I read Tom Cotton’s op-ed after the fact, I’m afraid. I agreed with none of it, but still disagree with the Times’ handling of it–I think it’s best for the that newspaper, and all newspapers, to allow expressions of belief from all sides.

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