The New York Observer has made a huge splash with an investigative story by editor Ken Kurson on internal tensions at the New York Times. According to Kurson’s story, the Times‘ reporters have growing contempt for the “tyranny and lethargy” of the paper’s editorial page, which is not only badly run but rarely read under Andrew Rosenthal. The Internet has lit up with debate about the story–and no small degree of delight.
The controversy has everything that the new media universe loves: gossip, rivalry, and a shot at “the man”–or the Grey Lady, in this instance. Yet is the story, beneath it all, just a case of rivalry between New York papers? No way, says Kurson, who spoke to Breitbart News about the story.
“I don’t consider it a ‘hit’ piece at all,” he says. “I’ve been a loyal Times subscriber, reader, and occasional writer for twenty-plus years. It’s indispensable.
“But I got a tip–a phone call out of the blue from a Times reporter –about the growing frustration among reporters that the news side has improved in section after section but that the edit page was stubbornly refusing to budge. I called a couple other reporters, mostly at random. Every single one had his or her own tale of either funny and petty behavior or more troubling stuff.
“I reported this for six weeks and by the end, reporters and former reporters were calling me, trying to add their two cents.”
It was a story literally begging to be written.
There is tension at other papers, too: the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page is infamously more conservative than its news sections. Yet the Journal‘s editorials manage to remain relevant. One of the more striking signs of the Times‘ decline is that its endorsements made no difference in local elections in 2013. The problems at the Times are about more than such political differences: they are primarily about quality, and management.
Yet the attempt to dictate to reality from an executive perch is a management habit peculiar to the political class that now governs us. In that, the political agenda of the New York Times is central to its ongoing failures.