Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Dozens of New York Times staff protested after the paper published an opinion article in which the writer, Senator Tom Cotton, suggested that the United States military should be deployed to keep the peace in cities across the country. The article in question, titled “Send in the Troops,” was published on a Wednesday. By the following morning, several high-ranking Times leaders were responding to unrest in the ranks.
The messages came after staffers from both the news and opinion desks complained about the publishing of the article and its content. Several employees posted about it on social media, claiming the publication of the article “puts black (Times) staff in danger…”
In response, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said he understood that some staffers may have not been happy about the piece, but that, “The Op-Ed page exists to offer views from across the spectrum, with a special focus on those that challenge the positions taken by our Editorial Board…”
In his note to the staff, Sulzberger added, “I’ve already heard from many of you and will do more listening in the days ahead, starting with smaller groups of our black colleagues, who are covering this story and living it at the same time…” Times editors were encouraged to speak with their teams about these issues, inviting feedback in anticipation of a “town hall” style meeting with employees later that week.
Sulzberger further clarified that the Times is not just trying to stir things up. They expect opinions to be “accurate, good faith explorations of the issues of the day…” to which he added, “It is clear many believe this piece fell outside of the realm of acceptability, representing dangerous commentary in an explosive moment that should not have found a home in The Times, even as a counterpoint to our own institutional view…”
Those comments did not seem to quell frustration among some staffers, who continued to challenge the decision to publish the piece. Comments included the idea that Sulzberger’s note failed to address concerns and that it ignored “factual inaccuracies” in Cotton’s piece. At least one employee described the note from Sulzberger as “demoralizing.” Another person noted that at least one of the points made in the piece by Cotton contained information that had been previously “debunked” by The Times.
But not everyone was up in arms about the piece. Some members of The Times staff spoke to the media about the issue, complaining that their colleagues were not behaving in a proper journalistic manner. They argued that publishing Cotton’s perspective “exposed” his perspective, allowing it to be criticized. One told CNN that they were “furious” at their colleagues for complaining about the piece being published.
Editorial page leadership said publishing the piece was a matter of integrity, arguing that refusing to publish content they disagreed with would “undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times.”