The Times’ Latest Woke Kerfuffle

A.G. Sulzberger
Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty
Dylan Byers
March 18, 2022

One quirk of living on the West Coast is that, waking up three hours behind New York and Washington, I often arrive at the media fracas du jour from the extremity of its outrage radius, and then have to work my way toward the epicenter. The first thing I read on Friday morning, at 6:15 a.m., was a tweet from Adam Davidson, the podcasting pioneer and journalist, who wrote a much-heralded column for the Times Magazine during the height of the Hugo Lindgren era. “If I still worked at the NYT,” Davidson tweeted, “I would seriously think about quitting today.” 

I then noticed that my friend and fellow Puck partner, Peter Hamby, had offered a characteristically savvy macro-view on “the debate over the NYT editorial” (essentially, that it didn’t really matter). Finally, after perusing some more tweets from Blue-Check Media, most of them quite critical of whatever apparently egregious crime the New York Times editorial board had just committed, I arrived at the scene of the purported original sin: A lengthy editorial arguing that Americans “are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.”

Whatever your views on the state of public discourse these days, the editorial left itself vulnerable to criticism from the outset. On some level, it seemed at times like one of those ambitiously lofty pieces, written by multiple people, which never quite articulated whatever it had been truly intended to posit, and instead pissed off everyone with its facile platitudes that read like a corporate dispatch from the Mount Olympus of hyper-privileged liberal democracy. Its tone occasionally gave off the whiff of annoyed Dalton alums who worry that they can no longer say whatever the hell they want—without proper recognition that many have long been deprived of that right in the first place.