Former New York Times opinion editor James Bennet delved into being treated badly by his publisher after a conservative column sparked an uproar in the newsroom in 2020.
The uproar began after Times executives fired opinion editor James Bennet for publishing a column by Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, in which he called for sending the military into major cities to intervene in the rioting and looting by left-wing activists during the Black Lives Matter riots, according to Semafor.
Bennet criticized the Times’ publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, for applauding and bending to the political left’s beliefs, leading to more progressive subscribers. He said he “blew the opportunity” to show progressives how to view reality, according to the outlet.
“Sulzberger is ‘old school’ in his belief in a neutral, heterodox publication,” he told Semafor. “But ‘they want to have the applause and the welcome of the left, and now there’s the problem on top of that that they’ve signed up so many new subscribers in the last few years and the expectation of those subscribers is that the Times will be Mother Jones on steroids.”
“I actually knew what it meant to have a target on your back when you’re reporting for the New York Times,” he added.
In case you were wondering whether James Bennet still harbors ill will toward AG Sulzberger https://t.co/Hqy3adWAwn pic.twitter.com/6tnbzMmHYj
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 18, 2022
Cotton’s column resulted in open rebellion inside the newsroom, causing the publication to apologize for the article. Sulzberger initially defended their decision to publish it, causing more uproar in the newsroom. One Times staffer called Sulzberger’s defense “demoralizing.”
Bennet also told Semafor that he never apologized and still does not regret publishing the piece.
Despite the uproar, Bennet has left-leaning political views and is the brother of Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. A Washington publishing insider, who personally knows Bennet, told the Daily Caller that the former New York Times editor is “an old school liberal” who defends free speech.
“James Bennet is no conservative,” the insider said. “He’s an old school liberal who still believes in free speech. What the Times did to him should scare every freedom loving American.”
The Semafor piece, written by former New York Times reporter and Semafor editor-in-chief Ben Smith, described how the Times is experiencing a culture war within the wall of its own newsroom. He said management is attempting to pull the newsroom in two different directions at the same time by catering to the progressive base while simultaneously covering “broad-minded journalism.” (RELATED: NYT Writes Article About Its Own Employees Revolting Against The NYT’s Decision To Publish Tom Cotton’s Op-Ed)
The newsroom added positions solely aimed at creating a more progressive and inclusive atmosphere, Smith wrote.
“Many Times staffers I spoke to believe the cultural conflict has been displaced by the labor struggle, and that the biggest challenges for management will be demands from journalists and tech workers for a bigger share of the profits,” Smith wrote. “Times coverage has a mixed record of understanding class division, but the newsroom itself is up in arms over the pace of contract negotiations.”