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New York Times reporters stage a protest of their own

New York Times journalists spoke out against the publication over a controversial opinion piece calling for Trump to “send in the troops”. The Times now say piece did not meet editorial standards.

The New York Times’ office. (Photo by David Smooke on Unsplash)

Journalists have spoken out against prominent US newspaper, the New York Times, for publishing a controversial opinion piece.

On June 3rd, the publication published an article by US Senator Tom Cotton, calling for Trump to “send in the troops”.

Journalists who work for the Times have since taken to Twitter to tweet “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger”.

James Bennet, the editorial page editor for the Times, tweeted a thread explaining why the piece was published.

“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-argument, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy.”

“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous. We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”

Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy. — James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020

Overnight the newspaper released an article by James Bennet further explaining their justification for publishing the Cotton piece.

“It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself,” Bennet wrote.

Many Times journalists have called on readers not to unsubscribe from the publication, as it would affect many of the Times’ journalists who were not involved in the decision to publish the controversial piece.

Another follow up article published by the Times has reported that the publication has since found the op-ed did not meet editorial standards.

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said in a statement that the piece was reviewed and found “a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards”.

The article also reported Bennet said in a staff meeting Thursday evening that “he had not read the essay before it was published”.

According to the same article, hundreds of NYT staff have protested the op-ed’s publication in a signed letter addressed to high-ranking editors and company executives.

I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral. As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this. — Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 4, 2020

The New York Times will hold a town-hall meeting on Friday (US time) to allow employees to express concern. The town-hall will include A.G. Sulzberger, the NYT’s publisher, Dean Baquet, their executive editor, and Bennet.

There has been no indication that the newspaper will pull the opinion piece from their website.

The published piece was written in response to the nation-wide protests that have occurred over the past week, in response to George Floyd’s death caused by a Minneapolis police officer.

The protests have sparked vast debate about the use of excessive force by police, especially towards Black Americans.

Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas since 2015, called on the federal government to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to employ the military to interfere in the protests.

Cotton suggested that the protests had been “infiltrate[ed]” by “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa”.

This echoes President Donald Trump’s rhetoric that antifa is responsible for inciting the riots in the US.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, the US President threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act if state Governors didn’t take immediate action to stop the protests.

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military, and quickly solve the problem for them.”

The statement has drawn criticism from politicians and the media, with many questioning whether such an action would breach the US Constitution, especially in relation to their First Amendment, which protects American’s right to free speech.


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