New York Times reporters rally against top editor's "dismissive" comments

Reporters are responding to a senior editor's claim that young writers couldn't commit to independent journalism

Published May 15, 2024 9:27PM (EDT)

Traffic and pedestrians pass by the New York Times building on 8th Avenue on December 30, 2023, in New York City.  (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Traffic and pedestrians pass by the New York Times building on 8th Avenue on December 30, 2023, in New York City. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The New York Times, which has faced mounting criticism from journalists and politicians for its coverage of Joe Biden, the war in Gaza and other editorial decisions, is now facing an internal battle.

Semafor reports that a draft letter is circulating amongst New York Times reporters, in response to comments from editorial higher-ups that young journalists viewed as “dismissive” of their concerns. In the letter, a senior editor is called out for allegedly discouraging reporters from raising concerns about the paper’s voice and failing to protect “the empathy of our journalism."

In a May 2 interview with Semafor, Executive Editor Joe Kahn defended his proclivity to view young reporters as unwilling to “commit themselves to the idea of independent journalism.”

“The newsroom is not a safe space. It’s a space where you’re being exposed to lots of journalism, some of which you are not going to like,” Kahn told Semafor.

The comments were seemingly in reference to the hotly-debated Times editorial guidelines to avoid words like “genocide” and “occupied territory” in reporting surrounding Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, and a letter from Times reporters to the editorial board on its coverage of transgender people.

“Young adults who are coming up through the education system are less accustomed to this sort of open debate, this sort of robust exchange of views around issues they feel strongly about may have been the case in the past,” Kahn told the Wall Street Journal in a separate interview.

Also discussed in the Semafor interview was the Times’ increasingly negative coverage of the Biden administration and campaign, and discussions of the candidate’s age, which Biden officials say is unfair.

“The role of the news media in that environment is not to skew your coverage towards one candidate or the other, but just to provide very good, hard-hitting, well-rounded coverage of both candidates, and informing voters,” Kahn said. 

But critics have grown increasingly skeptical that the Times is covering Biden impartially. Per Politico, a struggle between the president’s team and the newspaper, who Biden staffers said felt “entitled” to access, reached a boiling point when a Times reporter improperly attributed a quote from an administration official, and the paper refused to correct course.

Since then, a power struggle between the re-election hopeful and the nation’s most influential paper has ensued, with the Times being moved down from the highest tier of White House press access.

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