The Even More Woke Press: 1. The Washington Post

If I have time today, I’ll write a bit about the wokeness that’s metastazing in the liberal press, both in the US and UK. But of course I recognize that the incursion of ideology—of editorial opinion—into news is not unique to the press on the Left. It’s long been a feature of the right-wing media and press, as you can see by watching Fox News.  But since I take my brief to be criticism of those on my end of the political spectrum—nearly everybody here agrees with me on the odiousness of Trump and the Republicans, so writing about that isn’t fun—I’ll emphasize the media I read most often

I’d only recently subscribed to the Washington Post when I got this link from several readers. It refers to the paper’s announcement, buried in its “PR Blog”, about the paper’s hiring of more than a dozen positions in the newsroom (not the op-ed section), all focused on race in America. Click on the screenshot to read it.

I’ll reproduce the entire short piece as indented prose, and will make any comments flush left.

This appalls me as it’s clearly a calculated way respond to the recent protests and perhaps even a reaction to social media. Not that coverage of race is somehow bad or should be ignored, especially now, when it’s an especially hot topic for the news, and of course the Post has been already covering it amply—in my view. It’s time Americans recognized that a huge swath of our population still suffers materially and psychologically from bigotry and the facts of history—especially slavery—and we need to pull together to remedy unjustifiable inequities.

But I don’t think that can be done with a move like this, meant to enforce an ideological uniformity on the paper’s readers. The descriptions of the new positions seem more like the paper is going for “news” with an approved ideological slant—that of the Woke Left, and a slant toward the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT). If you know about CRT, you’ll recognize its signs below.

As one reader said in the comments (there are only 18 comments because the paper didn’t put this notice in an obvious place):

If you count the editors listed here, you’ll find (or at least I found) eleven, not “more than a dozen,” so perhaps they left some out. Anyway, here’s the announcement:

The Washington Post announced today the creation of new roles designed to enhance coverage of the growing national discourse on race in this historic moment and beyond, including a Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion, a senior leadership position with responsibilities such as convening regular coverage discussions focused on race and identity and the identification and recruitment of candidates.

“This is a historic moment in American history and in race relations. It requires us to re-examine our coverage and concentrate resources on the issues of race, ethnicity and identity that clearly deserve heightened attention,” said Marty Baron, executive editor of The Post. “With this expansion, we will be more inclusive in our journalism, providing broader and deeper reporting that today’s social reckoning demands.”

An editor will be added to the America Desk to help direct and edit these areas of coverage. New positions will include:

JAC: This is a head editor whose job is apparently to coordinate all the discussions of race.

  • Race in America writer: A reporter who can write with immediacy, sweep and authority on the topic of race and identity in America.

JAC: Does anybody doubt that this writer will be taking a certain slant on the news? What “authority” are they referring to. Since there is only one writer, he or she will already have a certain slant on the topic as judged from their past writings. And so one writer because the authority on race.

  • Writer on America and multiculturalism: A reporter who will focus on the nation’s emergence as a predominately multicultural society – a momentous demographic shift that requires sustained attention and enterprising reporting.

JAC: Ditto to this one.

  • Writer for the About US newsletter: An additional reporter to expand this already successful newsletter, which is now publishing twice a week.

JAC: It’s not clear what this has to do with race, as I haven’t seen the newsletter.

Additional positions included in this expanded coverage are:

  • National Security writer: A reporter with investigative skills to dig into domestic terrorism, including extremist groups with supporters in the military and police; the internationalization of far-right groups; and the sources of financial support for white nationalism.

JAC: Note that the specific kind of terrorism they will be covering is right-wing terrorism, including white nationalism. Perhaps that’s the predominant form of terrorism, but it’s not the only one, and I suspect we’ll see more left-wing terrorism in the future. They should have stopped after “dig into domestic terrorism”.

  • Criminal Justice writer: A reporter who will focus on the administration of justice in the United States, from policing to probation. The beat will encompass the reforms now being debated, incarceration at state and federal levels, and the experiences of those leaving prison.
JAC: Again, this has the scent of ideology rather than objectivity. 
  • Climate & Environment writer: A reporter to focus on environmental inequities, how climate change disproportionately harms people least responsible for it, the higher risk of exposure to pollution for communities of color and how communities of color are finding ways to adapt to environmental threats.

JAC: It’s not clear why they need a special position for someone to write about the inequities exacerbated by climate change, especially given that both the Post and the New York Times have written extensively about the issue. I think existing staff can cover this already as part of the many facets of global warming.

  • Health and Science writer: A reporter to focus on health disparities, the impact of structural and interpersonal racism on health and the sociology and psychology of racism and its impacts.

Note the mention of “structural” racism, which is not general bigotry among people (“interpersonal racism”) but bigotry enshrined in institutions like the healthcare system. Since the term is often used more loosely than this, including as an indictment of science and my own field, which are not structurally racist, I hope the writer takes care with the term.

  • Style writer: A features writer who can chronicle the cultural manifestations of an America that is changing demographically.

JAC: See “Writer on America and multiculturalism” above. Isn’t this really an identical position?

In addition, The Post will add a photojournalist with experience in coverage of race and identity, a multiplatform editor on the copy desk to help with the increase in coverage and Washington Post Live staff to oversee the development of a series of live discussions.

JAC: These two more positions make 11, not 12, and there are clearly more positions that weren’t detailed. I have never before heard of a photojournalist hired to specialize in “race and identity”; generally, photojournalists have wide-ranging assignments. Perhaps they mean here a photojournalist of color who could clearly integrate himself/herself into minority communities, which might be useful, but there are many minority communities (black, Hispanic, Muslim, gay, and so on), and what kind of photojournalist can deal with all those?

In general, what I see here is a once-respected newspaper turning from an objective purveyor of news (remember, these are newsroom positions, not op-eds) into a purveyor of Woke Left ideology. The New York Times is of course going in the same direction. And the source is the hiring of young journalists who themselves were steeped in woke culture on campus. As Andrew Sullivan said, presciently, “we are all on campus now.”

This is a huge change in the way the American liberal media has covered the news. Formerly, opinions, politics, and ideology were relegated to editorials and were clearly labeled as opinions. Like the wall that used to separate church and state, but is rapidly coming down, the wall between opinion and news in the liberal media is also dissolving.  Now we’ll get a view of the news filtered through a specific political viewpoint, with opinion leaking its way surreptitiously into straight reporting. (This can happen in various ways, including the topics deemed worthy of coverage and the wording used to discuss them.) As I said, the bleeding of politics into news has long been characteristic of the right-wing press, so I’m being an equal opportunity critic here. And I mourn the fact that when I turn to my two favorite left-wing papers, I’ll have to deal with this issue.

I discussed this issue with my friend Benjamin Schwarz, former national and literary editor of The Atlantic for 13 years (in which capacity he recruited the late and beloved Christopher Hitchens), a writer on diverse topics for diverse venues, and who is now writing a biography of Churchill to be published by Random House. When I asked Ben what he thought of the Post‘s new direction, he responded this way (published with permission):

This is not at all the same as hiring reporters to cover labor, religion, crime and the police, civil rights, etc.  This is hiring reporters to examine disparate subjects and issues through the lens of “race”—aka “critical race theory.”  And because they’ve been hired to write on/suss out “race,” they will naturally find that “racism” is a major factor in, or the defining feature of,  those issues.  Very similar to Stalinist Pravda examining every subject through the class struggle and/or dialectical materialism.

I can’t say I disagree with Ben.

Although the 18 comments after the Post piece are mixed, I’ll leave the last word to “schlamazel”, and not just because he/she has a cool handle:

(For those of you unfamiliar with Yiddish argot, I’ll note the classic joke used to distinguish between a schlemiel and a shlimazel [spellings vary]:  A schlemiel is someone who’s always spilling his soup, and the shlimazel is the person who’s always getting the soup spilled on him.)

28 thoughts on “The Even More Woke Press: 1. The Washington Post

  1. Browsing the New Books shelf at the local library yesterday made me uneasy. Every book I picked up, fiction or non-fiction, had a polemical end, the history all revised, the heroes disparaged, the heroines all LBGTQ or Minority, or feminists in unlikely times and places, all part of some rush to compensate for the literature of the past.

  2. I wonder if this is a reaction to competition, real or perceived, with the New York Times and its 1619 Project? They probably think of it as a race to become the national newspaper with the best coverage of racial injustice in America. IMHO, it could easily become a race to the bottom.

  3. They seem to be handing their reporters predetermined conclusions.

    While I might think those conclusions are reasonable and credible, I’d prefer my reporters to be a bit more academically distanced and questioning. For example, I would generally agree that “climate change disproportionately harms people least responsible for it.” But I want reporters to challenge that, poke holes in it. Go look at the data and situation with an objective eye. I certainly don’t want them starting out with the objective of confirming what I believe.

  4. Well the young people are getting jobs. Says something about our society.
    What I’m wondering though, is how can it be called “emerging” when it’s been around st least since the Europeans hit america.

    1. Same here, but I never knew they were yiddish, or what they meant, until today. I just thought they were nonsense syllables put in the song so it woud scan/rhyme.

      Now I can die in peace.

    2. Here’s the original:
      Shlep; the guy who knocks the iron off the ironing board.
      Shlemiel: the guy on whose foot it lands.
      Shlmazl: the guy who says Tsk tsk tsk.

  5. Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion sure sounds like the new admin positions in universities. The Post wants to be able to say they did this, and point to their well crafted job titles and descriptions, and their new staff members. See? We’re on the right side of history, etc…

    The only thing that actually matters is what they produce in the months and years to come. They could do some great reporting with generic job titles, or some mediocre reporting with these spiffy job titles. If they think the job titles are all that matters they will miss the mark.

    1. I am cynical about language. How long before the Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion actually becomes *in practice* the Managing Editor for Ideological Purity and and Dismissal of Wrong Thoughts?

  6. “Health and Science writer: A reporter to focus on health disparities, the impact of structural and interpersonal racism on health and the sociology and psychology of racism and its impacts.”

    I’m all ears for what the writer will say about science qua science.

  7. Does not sound good at all. The Washington Post already has hundreds of journalist and the money pot is very deep. I hate to see it go off the deep end.

  8. The recent recognition of race and racism in American history is extremely important. This is why I have been a supporter of the 1619 Project. But, what concerns me is that the growing income and wealth inequality in the country is now on the backburner of public attention. This is the problem of economic class. The two major problems in the country today (leaving aside the virus) are race and class. The emphasis on race serves the interest of the ruling elite because it divides the masses from each other on the basis of race. The demands of the protesters, largely legitimate, will alienate the poorer whites because the latter will wonder what’s in it for them. This condition is not new, but the events of the past few weeks accentuates it. Hence, the failure to achieve an alliance of all working class races works in the favor of conservatives and Trump.

    There needs to be a recognition on the part of African-Americans that their problems are partially due to the fact that many of them are in the lower economic stratum and that they need the support of working class whites to achieve many of their goals. Working class whites need to recognize that they have been the dupes of the ruling elite that has stoked racism as a successful divide-and-conquer strategy to retain power. Until both groups acknowledge that they need an alliance between themselves to escape the mire, income inequality will not go away. In American history such an alliance has been rare and temporary. The New Deal and the Great Society come to mind. Unfortunately, I don’t see the possibility of such an alliance in the near future. Thus, while there may be symbolic progress for African-Americans, actual progress in the form of a form of a better life seems as far away as ever.

    1. Indeed. In any attempt to describe society the first variable in your model should always be Class. You may need others as well, but you can’t do without class.

      My main objection to PC/woke stuff has always been that it serves ruling class Divide And Rule ends by drawing attention away from class.

      This struck me:

      “Very similar to Stalinist Pravda examining every subject through the class struggle and/or dialectical materialism.”

      We used to dream of examining every subject through the medium of class struggle, would have been a palace to us.

    2. This is my colleague Brian Leiter’s stance, which he takes on his highly read website. Like me, he favors affirmative action as a form of reparations, but he also wants class to be an important issue as well (he’s a Marxist).

    3. I have a hard time understanding how the New Deal or the Great Society were the result of an alliance of poor white and African-American classes. The ruling elite of the two major parties surely did not come to any alliance during the Great Society or New Deal.

  9. Take for example the recent development that the noose found in Bubba Wallaces’ garage was there before he was, and was not at all a racist message to him.
    Would the reporters that they are lining up be cognitively able to sort that simple story out?

  10. 2 things about the size of the staff increase. The comment from PRTX said a dozen more not more than a dozen. Secondly, the last bit you quoted looks like it is missing the Oxford comma and is saying they are adding staff to the Washington Post Live section. Staff could also imply more than one position.

    Bias has always been present in all journalism. For a short time in the mid 70s I was getting both Time and Newsweek. Reading an article in each about the same news item revealed the subtle inclusion of opinion via the choice of adjectives. One magazine was clearly in favor of the subject while the other was clearly against it. Both articles did include the same facts.

    The problem is that now it is being made way more extreme.

  11. This may be discomforting, but Ross Douthat in the NYTimes has a column about the displacement of class by race/identity in today’s NY Times.

    Identity politics is a very nice fit for corporations as it hardly impedes business models, so far, which can include exploitation in Asia and Africa, and executive pay.

    As I’ve noted before, a wonderful succint example was Goldman CEO’s public support in 2013 for gay marriage, around the time when gay marriage was the litmus test of woke sensibility. And also when Occupy Wall Street’s calls could have impaired banks. Its calls came to nothing, coincidentally, when a few days after Blankfein’s supporting statement, Eric Holder let banks get away with their financial crisis perfidy by declaring them too “systemically important” to prosecute.

    I don’t have NYTimes subscription, but the tweet below gives a nice excerpt of Douthat’s column.

  12. Random thoughts, in no particular order:

    – It feels to me as if we are seeing history compressed in a somewhat unnatural way, due to Trump’s Presidency and Covid. Possibly social media too. With all of these factors at play, it feels like what should have been a leftward swing that in times past would have taken place over a couple of decades and burned itself out at the far/extreme end of a pendulum swing has now gone from 0-60 and skipped all the moderate, productive years in between. Perhaps I am misjudging things, and things like the Occupy years should be counted as years when the country was leaning further left. But at the time, it felt like the GOP was still very much the dominant force, at least politically (Culturally, the Left has won culture war after culture war so perhaps that is a factor too and they are becoming victims of their own success – they need the next Big Battle but they are fewer and farther between.)

    – It’s almost cliche to say it at this point, but what is happening on the far Left is clearly a religious type movement. That is just the only parallel that makes any kind of sense. And yes, I’m a hypocrite because I’m kind of religious and still go “Yeah, that stuff is weird. But it’s like, not weird when people I like and respect think all the world’s animals arrived on an ark. It’s just a quirk! Be a little more tolerant, geez! Listen to the underlying message – wait what did you say? Gay people are transphobic if they won’t date trans people who are biologically the opposite sex and even mildly disagreeing with such a statement will get you cancelled by the mob? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE I CAN’T EVEN!!! Ahem. Now as I was saying, the problem with how people read the Bible is that they don’t know exactly which parts God meant are symbolic and which are literal, which I do, because, um, I do.”

    – I agree that Sullivan was prescient that we are all on campus now. But, unless the Left completes an absolute Maoist style takeover, I think it’s important to remember that Hippies grew up to be Yuppies. And I bet dollars to donuts that the Woke will as well. It’s like the old “waitress test” (pay attention to how your date treats the waitress, not you) – if people say (or more accurately, scream,) that they are oozing compassion and egalitarian impulses, but are happy to treat others like crap, what you can largely conclude is that they are the type of people who will treat others like crap. And they will do the exact same thing, in a new context, once they outgrow Wokeness and do whatever people do on Wall Street.

    – The idea that we are going to ‘end racism’ by saying that racism is ok so long as it’s directed at a more powerful group from a less powerful group is absurd on its face. You can’t tell people something is evil but only when some people do it. I wish people wouldn’t even use the word racism there as it makes no sense. What people want to end is power differentials. Which, ok, is there prerogative – but call it what it is.

  13. What we are seeing is the rise to power of the Angry Left, made possible by the rise of social media. The problem is that the Angry Left doesn’t really care about racism, what they want is to inflict suffering to people that they hate. Do they care about all the black people killed every day due to gun violence? Of course not, their priority is to abolish the police.

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