The aftermath of racial unrest and protests following George Floyd’s death has claimed it’s the first casualty in the newsrooms – James Bennet, a senior editor at New York Times resigned on Sunday. His crime – publishing an opinion piece by Republican Arkansas senator, Tom Cotton, who argued the use of military force to control the riots in the US.
The Times has long espoused “liberal” values, with one of the core tenets is providing a platform for diverse viewpoints and dialogue. In what appears to be an intergenerational and ideological turf war between the traditional “liberals” and the new age “woke” liberals, the backlash started with a section of the Times staff expressing their displeasure with the decision to publish Cotton’s piece. Using military does not fit into the Times’ world view, but nonetheless has precedent. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, military intervention was sought to control the law and order situation and on face value, if local police is unable to reign control, the military is the next logical step.
Indian readers are no strangers to this playbook; a family-owned newspaper claiming to stand for liberal values practices censorship in the name of editorial discretion.
The palace coup was complete when the Times publisher, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the Ochs Sulzberger family scion, announced the decision to let go, Bennet. It begs the question – if editors cannot bring alternative viewpoints without repercussions, do the Times journalists stand a chance?
Censorship has been the scourge across American universities lately and has now spread its tentacles into big tech and tragicomically onto mainstream media outlets, whole and sole purpose is to report the news, although some thrive in the guise of newsmakers. NYT, in its avatar as the self-appointed guardian of the freedom of the press, has never missed an opportunity to take a shot at India, going out of its way to defend the ignominies of NDTV, which PGurus has fearlessly covered over the years.
Indian readers are no strangers to this playbook; a family-owned newspaper claiming to stand for liberal values practices censorship in the name of editorial discretion. In 2015, the then editor of The Hindu, Malini Parthasarathy, refused to grant the Indian American Scholar, Rajiv Malhotra, a right to respond and further on explained the need for the paper to resist pressures from social media. What remained unsaid was the paper’s right to push it’s narrative and set the terms of the discourse based on its ideological underpinnings and censor alternative viewpoints.
The media industry might very well survive COVID-19; whether they will survive the fruits of their censorship karma is debatable.
 James Bennet Resigns as New York Times Opinion Editor – Jun 7, 2020, NY Times
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