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'Furor' at New York Times after union backtracks on '1619 Project' column criticism

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The New York Times is reportedly dealing with internal “furor” and “heated objections” following a bizarre series of events that resulted in unionized members of the paper demanding that their own Guild delete a message that criticized a recently published column that condemned a project published by the paper.  

The Times is known for having many young, liberal staffers that regularly air grievances on social media. The latest infighting at the Gray Lady began last week when opinion columnist Bret Stephens went after his own paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning "1619 Project" in a scathing piece. He wrote that Nikole Hannah-Jones' award-winning-yet-controversial project "has given critics of The Times a gift" because it can justify claims that the paper is "fake, biased, partisan and an arm of the radical left." 

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“Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political and cultural issues of the day, not become the issue itself,” Stephens wrote. “As fresh concerns make clear, on these points — and for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and a Pulitzer Prize — the 1619 Project has failed.”  

The New York Times Guild, a union that represents over 1,200 employees, initially attacked Stephens' column, tweeting, “It says a lot about an organization when it breaks it’s own rules and goes after one of its’s own. The act, like the article, reeks.” 

“Their denunciation was marred by humiliating typos and even more so by creepy and authoritarian censorship demands and petulant appeals to management for enforcement of company ‘rules’ against other journalists. To say that this is bizarre behavior from a union of journalists, of all people, is to woefully understate the case,” The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote of the criticism.  

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The tweet that went after Stephens' column was eventually deleted and the Guild claimed it was tweeted “in error.”  

“We deleted our previous tweet. It was tweeted in error. We apologize for the mistake,” the Times Guild wrote.  

The paper’s own media columnist, Ben Smith, tweeted on Sunday that the ordeal caused “furor” among staffers, who regularly bicker about the paper’s content with constant infighting.  

“Someone else active in the Times Union tells me that a leader of the chapter, who runs the account, tweeted about the Stephens column without any internal discussion, causing a furor in Slack and drawing heated objections from others in the Guild,” Smith wrote, noting that the chaos resulted in the Guild deleting the initial tweet.  

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

The latest drama comes after the paper’s liberal staffers revolted when it published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., earlier this year.

Back in June, the Times’ own reporters slammed the paper over the publication of Cotton's op-ed about the George Floyd unrest. Cotton called for the government to deploy troops as a last resort to help quell riots and looting that emerged amid the anger over George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.

NY TIMES WRITERS IN 'OPEN REVOLT' AFTER PUBLICATION OF COTTON OP-ED, CLAIM BLACK STAFF 'IN DANGER'

The publication sparked a revolt among Times journalists, with some saying it endangered Black employees. Some staff members called out sick in protest, and the Times later announced that a review found the piece did not meet its standards. The backlash eventually resulted in Editorial Page Editor James Bennet stepping down.

The chaos caused now-former Times opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss to step down, saying she was bullied by colleagues in an "illiberal environment," weeks after she declared there was a “civil war” inside the paper.

Weiss published a scathing resignation letter that she sent to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger on her personal website, noting she doesn’t understand how toxic behavior is allowed inside the newsroom and "showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery."

NY TIMES WRITERS IN 'OPEN REVOLT' AFTER PUBLICATION OF COTTON OP-ED, CLAIM BLACK STAFF 'IN DANGER'

Weiss then wrote that “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times,” but social media acts as ultimate editor.

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Meanwhile, New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein later released a statement from publisher Sulzberger, who dismissed the notion that Stephens' takedown of the "1619 Project" represented an “institutional shift” in support for the project.   

“It is a journalistic triumph that changed the way millions of Americans understand out country, its history and its present,” Sulzberger wrote. “I believe strongly in the right of Opinion to produce a piece, even when – maybe even especially when – we don’t agree with it as an institution.”  

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