This year, as you may recall, a firestorm of indignation exploded over the Tweets of a new hire at The New York Times.
As a result of the backlash, The New York Times and the new hire decided to go their separate ways – just hours later.
That person is, of course, Quinn Norton.
At the time, Norton was a journalist and an essayist at Wired magazine and was their editorial board’s lead opinion writer on technology.
|Quinn Norton. Public Domain|
One reason given for her leaving was Norton’s friendship with Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a white supremacist who helps run the Daily Stormer website. The other issue was that she had used derogatory slurs against gay people.
The editor of the editorial page of The New York Times, James Bennet, came out with a statement:
Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.
And that was that.
Until last week.
On August 1, The New York Times announced they were hiring Sara Jeong to join their Editorial Board. In the press release, they praised Jeong’s book:
She also authored the book, “The Internet of Garbage,” which examines the many forms of online harassment, free speech, and the challenges of moderating platforms and social media networks. [emphasis added]
|Sarah Jeong. Credit: Brandt Luke Zorn.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
As it turned out, Jeong is actually quite experienced in online harassment:
Are these racist?
These are tweets by Sarah Jeong who was just hired to the NYT editorial board. pic.twitter.com/B3P7ay8QNR
— Armin Navabi (@ArminNavabi) August 2, 2018
We hired Sarah Jeong because of the exceptional work she has done covering the internet and technology at a range of respected publications.
Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it.
We had candid conversations with Sarah as part of our thorough vetting process, which included a review of her social media history. She understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at The Times and we are confident that she will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward.
Some have pointed out the apparent double standard at play here: the different attitude taken by The Times when a white woman makes derogatory remarks about a minority as opposed to an Asian woman making derogatory remarks about whites.
The New York Times held Norton to a different standard while shielding Jeong from criticism for her many racist rants attacking white people.
The New York Times stuck to their guns and kept Jeong. That decision does not say much about their objectivity, thoroughness or evenhandedness. It reeks of a double standard, regardless of the excuses they use to justify hiring Jeong.
It is reminiscent of another kind of double standard at The New York Times – their reporting on Israel and Jews, where The Times reserves a level of criticism it does not apply equally to others.
Doing a quick search through articles written by media critic Ira Stoll for the Algemeiner, there is no shortage of examples.
|Ira Stoll. YouTube screenshot|
In one article alone, Stoll notes that:
o The New York Times criticized the idea of accommodating Orthodox Jewish swimmers with women-only hours at a public swimming pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Times complained of the “strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space.” However, The Times felt very differently when separate swimming was established in order to accommodate Muslims in Toronto. In that case, The Times praised it as a “model of inclusion.”
To insist that stories about poor, oppressed or otherwise marginal groups of people are really about everyone can be a way of denying their specificity.
An article about kaporos entitled “A Raw Deal for Chickens, as Jews Atone for Sins,” focused on how the custom was not good for the chickens. But when describing caged birds being kept and sold in Senegal for a custom “to whisper prayers to the bird and then let it fly away, taking your problems with it” there is no comment on the treatment of the birds.
Another double standard is a story entitled “Railway Work in Israel on the Sabbath Threatens to Unravel Netanyahu’s Coalition” which rated 700 words, but a story about Polish lawmakers voting, at the request of Catholic bishops, to eliminate Sunday shopping in the country by the year 2020 gets only 200, and no pictures.
The yeshiva complex is a multitentacled enterprise.
The New York Times condemned Netanyahu for criticizing Obama, saying he interfered in US politics – yet it ran a headline: “As Trump Offers Neo-Nazis Muted Criticism, Netanyahu Is Largely Silent,” criticizing Netanyahu for not getting involved.
When it comes to demographic counting, or blaming Israel for what happens in the “occupied territories,” the Times is all too happy to impute Israeli control over land…Yet when Jews are getting attacked by terrorists in Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, the Times goes falling all over itself rushing to remind people with a correction that “the status of East Jerusalem is disputed” so somehow therefore it doesn’t really count as an attack in Israel.
The bias of The New York Times goes beyond their reporting and now impairs their judgment in other areas as well.
But in this case, The Times may yet realize their mistake…
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