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NYT feud demonstrates major media silliness

Aaron Sibarium writes for the Washington Free Beacon about a controversial staffing change at the nation’s most prominent newspaper.

The “resignation” of star New York Times science writer Donald McNeil Jr. has sparked a furious back-and-forth among Times staffers, many of whom are outraged over the Gray Lady’s handling of his departure.

The Washington Free Beacon reviewed a series of postings to a Facebook group for current and former Times staffers, where a tense debate is unfolding over McNeil’s exit. One camp argues that his dismissal was justified and another asserts it set a troubling precedent, which the New York Times union should have done more to prevent.

“What ever happened to the notion of worker solidarity … to giving a fellow worker the benefit of the doubt,” asked Steven Greenhouse, who spent three decades covering labor issues for the Times. …

… Times crossword columnist Deb Amlen accused Greenhouse of an excessive focus on the “perpetrator,” arguing that he and others should shift their attention to the people McNeil had “harmed.”

“Why is it that the focus in discussions like this almost always [is] on ruining the perpetrator’s life, and not those who were harmed by [his actions],” she asked. …

… The back-and-forth provides a window into the latest racial controversy roiling the paper, which saw a revolt among minority staffers over the summer after publishing an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.). Opinion editor James Bennet ultimately lost his job.

McNeil’s ouster came nearly two years after the incident that precipitated it. While chaperoning high school students on a pricey trip to Peru, the science reporter responded to a question from a student about whether one of her classmates should have been suspended for using the n-word. In the process, he uttered the offending syllables himself. An internal Times investigation found his judgment wanting but stopped short of firing him.

Only after the Daily Beast published an account of the incident, thrusting it into the public realm for the first time, was McNeil pushed out.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...