Who Will Op-Ed the Op-Eds?

If “all the news that is fit to print” becomes an argument more than a mission statement, Americans are going to see fit to find their news elsewhere.

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Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper, September 1942. Photo by Marjory Collins [Public Domain, Library of Congress]

The New York Times is having a rough week. Long time columnist Tom Jones summarizes:

Should or shouldn’t is one argument, one that has been raging across the media table in the national conversation lunch room. What is going on, though, is a lot more than just an op-ed. Senator Tom Cotton, who is up for re-election but short of getting hit by a bus is going to continue to represent Arkansas, has ambitious designs on higher office. The op-ed was garbage — a giant troll of populist pulp from someone in Cotton who knew it to be just that. Yet his pontificating Pez dispenser of nonsense isn’t really the problem here. Cotton will be fundraising and living large off this free press for months.

What it reveals about the inner workings and factions at the nation’s “paper of record” is far more important.

It’s tempting to handwave such elite media intramural fussing as not important but it is. The New York Times is still the headwaters for a lot of content that gets recycled, reused, and regurgitated in all directions as it rolls down the news and information mountain. It’s just how it is. So yes, it matters when the “news” side and the “opinion” side of the New York Times go to war over whose paper it really is.

And let’s not kid ourselves here. There is a lot of interpersonal and business relationship going on when things like this happen. The guy in charge making mistakes is the cue for folks with long held grievances to start airing laundry for their own purposes. Add in the layer that the news media’s favorite story template is how the news media covers the news, and you have a crossing of the streams New York City hasn’t seen since Ray Stantz childhood memory nearly ended life on Earth as we know it.

Media in America is changing rapidly. Folks who spend their entire lives getting into positions to dictate the discourse at places like the New York Times are not going to suddenly devalue those gains. Throw in a fight over purity of thought and intention, instead of the airing of well written opinions of the editors and op-eds — in the original meaning of “opposite the editorial page” and those who are in charge of it — who are the hallmarks of a vibrant opinion page. If “All the news that is fit to print” becomes an argument more than a mission statement, and it looks like that epoch has come, a bunch of Americans are going to take one look at that paywall and see fit to find their news elsewhere.

Then where will the New York Times be? The “paper of record” for the country relegated to insider media newsletter isn’t good for the New York Times, for journalism, for media, and certainly not good for the country.

But the country can live without the New York Times if they absolutely insist on it.

Written by

Writer. Mountaineer diaspora. Vet. Managing Editor @ordinarytimemag, Writings found @arcdigi & elsewhere. Writing about food, folks, & faith at Yonder & Home

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