The New York Times was mocked on Sunday and Monday after it published a lengthy report on Sunday trying to stave off attacks from conservative activists who have documented damaging social media posts on hundreds of left-wing journalists. The Times claimed that the activists’ actions did not really constitute legitimate journalism.
“Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations,” The New York Times reported. “Operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists, the people familiar with the operation said. Only a fraction of what the network claims to have uncovered has been made public, the people said, with more to be disclosed as the 2020 election heats up.”
New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger sent a memo to staff at the newspaper, claiming without evidence that the paper had “distinguished itself with fearless and fair coverage of the president” and that the operation was being carried out because people on Right could not “challenge the accuracy of our reporting.”
“Now, the political operatives behind this campaign will argue that they are ‘reporting’ on news organizations in the same way that news organizations report on elected officials and other public figures,” Sulzberger added. “They are not. They are using insinuation and exaggeration to manipulate the facts for political gain.”
The Times was brutally mocked by notable people on Twitter as well as in reports and op-eds, including in The Washington Post.
The Post’s Eric Wemple wrote:
They are bad actors. They are driven to suppress legitimate inquiry. They are by no means journalists.
And they read Twitter very carefully!
Those are the contours of an alarm rung on Sunday by the New York Times.
And just what would this “damaging information” be? Illicitly obtained DMs? Gossip about their sexual habits? HIPAA-protected information?
Nope. “Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.” Bolding added to note that this “damaging information” is available not only to a “loose network of conservative operatives” but also to the loose network of everyone with access to the Internet.
Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote:
Journalists don’t have thin skins, broadcaster Edward R. Murrow is reputed to have said, they have no skins. Reporters are so sensitive that you needn’t criticize their work to earn a buzz saw in the face in return. Just offer the observation, “I saw your piece,” and frown. They’ll be on you with tooth and claw in a millisecond, demanding to know what you’re implying.
And of all the thin-skinned beasts prowling the journalistic forest, few have a thinner epidermis than the boys and girls who work at the New York Times…
…Journalists don’t deserve a get-out-of-bigotry-jail free card just because they’re journalists. If their past tweets, however ancient, undercut their current journalistic work or make them sound hypocritical, they can’t blame their diminished prestige on Trump’s allies. It’s like blaming a cop for writing you a ticket for speeding in a school zone.
On Twitter, numerous notable accounts weighed in on the matter and mocked The Times.
Dinesh D’Souza tweeted: “Do unto them what they do to others. Didn’t Christ say something along these lines?”
Mollie Hemingway tweeted: “As a media critic, Twitter has been an invaluable resource for showing how histrionic, partisan, arrogant, uneducated, and ignorant far too many in our political media are. Their work product shows the results of these traits. And as we all can see, it’s not pretty.”
Seth Mandel tweeted: “Sounds less like they’re declaring war on the press and more they realize this is like 87% of what reporters do and they’re getting in on the action”
Jordan Schachtel tweeted: “It’s kinda fascinating how Ken Vogel, a dem operative who sent stories to the DNC for review, considers himself an objective journalist. Just last week, he did not disclose fact that he met w/ agents of a foreign power to run a hit piece on a GOP donor.”
Dan McLaughin tweeted: “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
Jon Levine tweeted: “As a former media reporter, I see no issue in holding journalists to the same standards of behavior they insist on for everyone else. But don’t take my word for it … Here is the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics!”
Asawin Suebsaeng tweeted: “If you are a journalist covering Trump, you should consider yourself a public figure & if people start digging up old Bad Tweets of yours, you shouldn’t consider it an attack on the free press, you & your employer should welcome the attack and tell them to go f**k off to Siberia”
Will Sommer tweeted: “This piece sure makes a big deal about a couple of guys using Twitter Advanced Search.”
Yashar Ali tweeted: “I agree with @jackshafer here. They’re tweets, not someone’s diary from high school.”
Erick Erickson tweeted: “Maybe if a few journalists’ careers are ended by the Trump team doing to them what they do to ordinary grandmothers and blue collar workers perhaps the journalists will think twice before ruing the lives of private citizens they just don’t like.”
Jesse Kellly tweeted: “It’s absolutely disgusting that Trump plans on using allies to go after his opponents. He should just use the FBI like Obama did.”