NYT’s Maggie Haberman Says The Quiet Part Out Loud, Journalists Don’t Think They Should Be Criticized

When trying to understand the poor state of journalism these days, I think that looking at what journalists are saying on Twitter provides a lot of insight. One striking element is that journalists, who critically cover others all the time, think they shouldn’t have to deal with the same. As another example of that, take this recent tweet from one of The New York Time’s star reporters, Maggie Haberman:

We all get harassed on Twitter and in email. What’s noteworthy is how the supporters of an extremely online Cabinet appointee who often attacked reporters – not just senators – feel a certain freedom here to just let it fly.

The Cabinet appointee referenced there is Neera Tanden, who as far as I am aware, never physically attacked journalists or senators (a Republican congressional candidate did physically attack a journalist less than four years ago). When it comes to the tweets about senators she has been criticized for, they seem snarky at best.

That same day Maggie Haberman also claimed that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign engaged in “reporter-bashing”:

It doesn’t erase reporter-bashing during the campaign but it is of note now that they’re in power as a signal that’s being sent.

I don’t recall Joe Biden having a poor relationship with the press that would justify that sort of claim.

In the responses to another of her related tweets, someone mentioned that The New York Times previously had a public editor. At the time they got rid of that position, the publisher of the Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. claimed that social media was their new watchdog:

[T]oday, our followers on social media and our readers across the Internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office,

That doesn’t seem to match up with Maggie Haberman’s behavior. It does seem to match up with how the public editors were treated by the Time’s journalist. Andy Robinson interviewed all six of the people that formerly held that job for an article on the Columbia Journalism Review. Their comments don’t paint Time’s journalist’s treatment of them as being better than what happened here, here is a quote from one of them, Margaret Sullivan:

I don’t know if I lost any sleep about it, but I certainly had times when I was pretty upset. There were also times, absolutely, when I shed tears about it. Not in the newsroom, or not very often. Maybe a couple times in the newsroom. It’s hard to describe. You’re so immersed in this world, and people take themselves pretty seriously, and it’s also a very prominent platform.

It also doesn’t sound like Time’s employee were interested in fixing problems. Here is a quote from another public editor, Arthur Brisbane:

I totally understand the reporter going into full 100-percent defense mode arguing every point. That’s what you kind of would expect somebody to do. But I figured that the editor would be, you know, 100-percent adult in the room and acknowledge where there were flaws and try to sort of essentially mediate an understanding that this could have been done differently and better. They relied for their sourcing on people who were in active ongoing disputes with the people they were criticizing. They didn’t mention this kind of stuff. And they also grossly mis-described what was going on and who they were writing about. There were a lot of problems, but I got nothing.

For those wanting to better understand what is going wrong with the press, that entire article is worth the time it takes to read.

The New York Times added a public editor after a scandal involving a journalist, Jayson Blair, making up details of stories. Since the public editor was gotten rid of in 2017, the Times had continued to have issues with their reporting, including belatedly retracting part of a podcast after the source was charged criminally related to claims he made.

In another article, the Columbia Journalism Review’s Jackie Spinner noted that the lack of that role is not unique to the Times in the United States, but it is a different story in other countries:

While public editor positions are increasing in other parts of the world, US news ombudsmen have all but disappeared.

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