Bari Weiss is a self-described “left-leaning centrist,” who the Washington Post says, “portrays herself as a liberal uncomfortable with the excesses of left-wing culture.” She resigned as a columnist for the New York Times this week because she could no longer tolerate the abuse from fellow employees for not sharing their radical views.
For most journalists, at least center-right, libertarian or conservative journalists, there comes a moment of decision: “Am I willing to compromise what I believe, or hide those beliefs to keep — or get — a job?”
Depending upon what level of the industry they’re in, all too often, they have to pretend to toe the orthodox line to keep their jobs.
I have been a journalist since 1992, most of that time in community journalism at papers across Kansas, with stints in the major blogosphere writing for outlets like PJMedia, The Daily Caller, and Bearing Arms.
I stuck with community journalism for two reasons: First because I always felt it was where the real action was, and where I could make the biggest impact. I still think so. Second, because I knew early that my politics meant ethical compromises I was unwilling to make to work at the national level.
So too, earlier this week did former New York Times Opinion Editor Bari Weiss come to that decision-point — and did what her conscience demanded — and resigned.
She also posted her resignation letter excoriating the culture at the NYT.
According to Weiss, rather than learning the lessons of 2016 when the “Paper of Record” was not only spectacularly wrong about what the results would be, but was also all-in for Hillary Clinton, the paper’s internal culture has doubled down.
“But the lessons that ought to have followed the election — lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society — have not been learned,” she wrote. “Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
Now, this is hardly a surprise to anyone who has been following the Times’ coverage of President Donald Trump in particular, and of conservatives in general. But it was apparently a bit of a shock to Ms. Weiss.
But the culture she describes goes beyond the usual soft-left bias found in most newsrooms where the vast majority of journalists and editors are at least center-left and tend to engage in a kind of mild group-think.
Most journalists I’ve worked with in nearly three decades, however, work hard to put those biases aside to at least attempt fairness in their reporting.
Not so much at the Times apparently, at least according to Weiss.
“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space,” she wrote. “Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”
Not only that, but Weiss was apparently subjected to the sort of abuse — some of it blatantly anti-semitic — no one should have to endure at work.
“My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” she said. “They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.”
Former NYT editor Jill Abramson proceeded to respond to those claims — which constitute a hostile workplace under many definitions, by essentially blaming Weiss.
The Hill reports Abramson told Fox News that Weiss was a “low-level opinion editor” and implied she was both a wimp and a bully.
“I’m sorry if she had a rough time,” Abramson said. “But … Bari Weiss is someone [who] has thousands of Twitter followers herself. She has been in there, on Twitter, throwing some punches herself at people she disagrees with.”
“I’m not saying she is a bully, but, you know, if you are going to dish it out, you’ve got to be ready to take it,” Abramson continued. “I learned that a long time ago.”
The reality here is something any right-of-center or libertarian reporter or editor knows — you’re risking the mob every time you buck the liberal orthodoxy.
In my career, I’ve had death threats (actually fairly common for journalists, believe it or not), been called vile names (ditto) and within the last three years, had a group of very liberal local activists decide I was a white nationalist, try to get me fired and threaten to protest my paper for the sin of quoting The American Thinker in a column.
This is standard operating procedure for the left, and it’s very sad — but hardly surprising — to see that cancel culture and the Cult of Wokeness have infiltrated and taken over the Grey Lady.
Weiss, I’m sure, is tougher than her critics, but many are not, and I can guarantee there are some within the NYT scared to speak up.
I hope this is a wake-up call for editors and senior managers at papers across the nation — but I much doubt it.