The traditional newsroom is finally coming to terms with its slow metamorphosis into a college campus, taken hostage by younger progressive activist staffers.
When Sen. Tom Cotton was granted op-ed space in the New York Times last week, many of the millennial staff were triggered into issuing social media claims that lives were being put in danger, namely those of their African American colleagues.
The fallout has been swift and will have a chilling effect on speech and commentary in major newspapers for years to come. James Bennet, the Times’s editorial director, resigned from his position after defending the paper’s decision to run the column. The writing is on the wall for opinion editors: publish a view, any view from the right side of the political spectrum and you risk losing your job. Would any editor at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Herald-Tribune, Miami Herald or Washington Post now risk their editorial position? I doubt it.
The New York Times newsroom is undergoing campusification and the elimination of broad points of view. It’s been a long time coming. Media columnist Ben Smith wrote a Times piece concerning the new media attitude of alienating and shutting down conservative viewpoints altogether in pursuit of a journalist’s personal truth. The same thing is occurring at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Stan Wischnowski’s 20-year tenure was drawn to a close. The award-winning editor was forced to resign after running a slightly insensitive headline that read ‘Buildings Matter, Too’. See also Axios, who have told their journalists they are now free to join protests and will have their bail paid by the news outlet itself.
These publications might think they are embracing a kind of new revolution. Really their changes just confirm what conservatives and most of the public have known for quite some time now: the campus is coming. But do their subscribers really care?
As newsrooms nationwide revolt, the readers have decided these ideological squabbles simply aren’t interesting, and have moved on. While the New York Times was having its intramural struggle session, Candace Owens, formerly of Turning Point USA, was racking up views by the millions on Facebook: 24 million to be exact in under 19 hours. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s posts are routinely in the top 10 most shared on Facebook. Conservatives have also charted fertile territory on YouTube and Twitter to get their message out.
Whether you love or hate Owens or Shapiro is beside the point. While mainstream journalists point fingers checking each other’s privilege, news-hungry readers, searching for varying viewpoints, shrug their shoulders and moved on to an alternative source of information. I’ve got news for the Brian Stelters and the Ben Smiths: those people are never coming back. Maybe the big media organizations think what they want. But even before a world pandemic led to even more layoffs in progressive news-blogs across the country (BuzzFeed has let go of over 30 employees and shut down its international news divisions), journalists were being shunted towards learning a new profession in computer scripting languages. Independent media is thriving. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook, and even smaller models such as Substack and Patreon, are eating legacy media’s lunch.
The New York Times and others can go the campus witch-hunt route, but they shouldn’t expect their readers to put up with the navel-gazing. The internet is a wide open sandbox where just about anyone can build and shape an audience. If the likes of Twitter and Facebook could have taught the Times anything, it’s that there are more of us than there are of them.