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:
“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.
- 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.)