Times Promises Fewer Editors; It Shows
by Ira Stoll
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A public memo issued yesterday by the top two editors at the New York Times promised "fewer editors at The Times."
To judge by this morning's newspaper, the plan has already been implemented.
At least two Times articles could have benefited from some more editing.
The first appears atop the arts section. Online, the headline is "Museum Trustee, a Trump Donor, Supports Groups That Deny Climate Change." It's a long, one-sided attack on the American Museum of Natural History for the sin of allowing a conservative donor. Rebekah Mercer, to serve as one of 49 members of the board of trustees.
The Times article includes this sentence about the museum's president, Ellen V. Futter: "Ms. Futter would not comment on the calls for Ms. Mercer to step down or what brought her to the board, declining to discuss the activities of a specific trustee."
The reference to "the calls for Ms. Mercer to step down" stopped me in my tracks as a reader, because the article hadn't yet reported that there were any such calls.
The same article also gave an inaccurate report of President-elect Trump's views on climate change. It reports:
The "hoax" hyperlink links to another Times article that includes no original report of the "hoax" comment, but just another copied and pasted parade-of-horrors context paragraph:
The "hoax" link in that Times article goes to a Trump tweet from 2012 that doesn't use the word "hoax" but does say, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
The Times doesn't say why it finds the 2012 tweet worthy of constant repetition, but why it doesn't report Mr. Trump's November 2016 interview with the Times in which he said he has "a totally open mind" on the topic. From that interview:
That is a lot different than simply calling climate change a hoax. But it sure seems like the Times would rather provide its liberal readers with fodder for their anxiety than provide an accurate, up-to-date characterization that reflects the nuances of Mr. Trump's views.
The Times article includes quotes from the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and from two other critics condemning Ms. Mercer, but not a single quote from anyone defending her presence on the board. I would have been happy to have been quoted saying it is totally ridiculous, closed-minded and intolerant for anyone to talk about disqualifying anyone from serving on the 49-person board of that particular museum on the grounds that she had given money to some conservative policy organizations. But no one from the Times called me for comment. Nor are there any quotes in the article from representatives of the conservative groups she gave money to, though there are two paragraphs devoted to an op-ed piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal in 1997 by someone Ms. Mercer once gave $15,000 in campaign contributions to.
The whole Times piece is a sloppy confection of guilt by association and one-sidedness. It needed more editing, not less.
A similar problem afflicts Thomas Friedman's op-ed page column. Mr. Friedman writes:
Well, for one thing, that tweet would have been 138 characters over the limit.
But for another thing, Mr. Friedman totally ignores that Mr. Trump did praise Mr. Schumer. On November 20, Mr. Trump reacted to Mr. Schumer's election as Senate Democratic leader by tweeting, "I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer. He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things done. Good news!"
Mr. Trump also announced that, on Schumer's advice, he would keep a former Schumer aide, Preet Bharara, as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. I wrote a whole column on the budding and dangerous Trump-Schumer bromance.
It was only after Schumer came under pressure from left-wing activists angry at him for what they saw as collaborating with or normalizing Mr. Trump, and gave a combative speech on the Senate floor that took Mr. Trump by surprise, that Mr. Trump turned on Mr. Schumer.
From Mr. Trump's perspective, Mr. Friedman and his ilk aren't going to give Mr. Trump any credit for the November 20 tweet. They just ignore it. So one almost wonders, from Mr. Trump's point of view, what is the point of even bothering.
Mr. Friedman writes, "Many who voted against Trump would have given him a second look had he surprised them with generosity and grace. He did just the opposite. Sad."
Many of the Trump voters who distrust the New York Times would have given that paper a second look had it surprised them with generosity and grace. Instead the newspaper has done just the opposite, doubling down on reflexive hostility to the incoming administration, unmoored to basic standards of journalistic accuracy, balance, or fairness. Sad, indeed.
A third article in today's Times reports that "Within The Times's newsroom... the impending staff cuts have some employees on edge." It also says the Times is "trying to forge a stronger connection to the large bloc of voters who swept Mr. Trump to the presidency." If the newspaper really wants to do that — an open question, in my view — it's going to need to perform better than it did in these two pieces.
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