A string of recent high-profile social media controversies by New York Times journalists has reportedly left a slew of staffers at the embattled newspaper feeling aggravated and listless.
[T]he barrage of recent incidents on social media have left many in the organization fatigued. Multiple staffers expressed ambivalence and frustration about the onslaught of outside interest in paper’s internal affairs. When asked about the mood inside the newsroom following Stephens’ recent blunder, one staffer quipped: “I’m so sick of talking about this shit.”
The Times’ social media headaches began in July when its deputy Washington editor, Jonathan Weisman, came under fire for suggesting freshman Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) did not adequately represent their Midwestern states due to their backgrounds. Weisman attracted additional backlash after emailing author Roxane Gay to demand an apology for her criticism of his remarks regarding the far-left “Squad” members. In response to the outcry, the deputy Washington editor was demoted for, according to a Times’ statement, repeatedly displaying “poor judgment on social media.”
Last week, a Breitbart News investigation unearthed various racist and antisemitic tweets by New York Times politics editor Tom Wright-Piersanti, throwing the Grey Lady into its second public relations crisis in the span of a month. Over the last five years, Wright-Piersant authored anti-Jewish tweets such as one posted in 2010 that read: “I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So…. HAPPY Jew Year. You Jews.”
The Times politics editor also made bigoted statements targeting Indians. “There are four indian guys with mohawks in this one class, and each one is a douche in his own awful way. I hate mohawk Indians,” he wrote in December 2009.
Following Breitbart News’s report, he apologized for his “offensive” tweets and deleted several of them. While the Times said it would decide what course of action to take regarding Wright-Piersanti, he appears to be still employed at the newspaper.
The intense blowback from the scandal prompted Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger to send a company-wide memo this week in which he cautioned staff about their social media habits, according to the Daily Beast.
If anyone—even those acting in bad faith—brings legitimate problems to our attention, we’ll look into them and respond appropriately. It is imperative that all of us remain thoughtful about how our words and actions reflect on the Times, particularly during this period of sustained pressure and scrutiny. We all play a part in upholding our commitment to give the news impartially without fear or favor.
This isn’t the first time the Times has sought to clamp down on its staff’s social media usage. In 2017, the newspaper released strict social media rules aimed at avoiding the expression of “partisan opinions or editorializing on issues that the Times is covering.” The guideline also warned against making “offensive comments.”
Earlier this week, the Times once again found itself at the center of online criticisms (and intense mockery) after columnist Bret Stephens quit Twitter after tweeting a screenshot of an angry email he wrote to a George Washington University associate professor, who called the perpetually sanctimonious writer a “bedbug.”
Stephens was so infuriated by the joke that he even sent a copy of his email to the professor’s boss, the school’s provost. The quip came in response to a report that the Times suffers from a bedbug infestation at its cushy Manhattan headquarters. Stephens’ ridiculous behavior even earned him a ribbing from President Donald Trump, who called the Times columnist a “lightweight” who is “loaded” with bedbugs.
“Been calling me wrong for years, along with the few remaining Never Trumpers – All Losers!” the president added.