There is, it seems, no limit to the depths to which Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Publisher A. G. Sulzberger, and the rest of the brass at the New York Times are willing to stoop.
After Donald McNeil — a 45-year veteran of the paper who was forced to resign when a shoddily researched Daily Beast article about him caused an uproar in the daycare center that is the Times‘ newsroom — published a four-part version, from his perspective, of the events that led to his departure, the Times flew into a truth-and-justice-be-damned damage-control mode not unlike the one it entered when the Daily Beast article originally appeared. This led to the publishing of a short piece by reporter Marc Tracy on McNeil’s posts.
It’s a sub-550-word pseudo-summary of a 20,000-word narrative. One that by design avoids most details, obscures others (it includes a reference to the apology signed by McNeil without addressing his account of how it came to be), and tries a little too hard to fulfill its mandate by portraying the Times in the best light possible — a tall order to be sure. The point of publishing the article was not the substance (or lack thereof), though; it was the headline:
It’s an utterly indefensible smear, devoid of context and meant as retribution for the temerity McNeil showed in defending himself. It’s also one that could be leveraged against any of the writers who have used or editors who have approved the use of the n-word in the Times‘ pages — that is to say, much of the newsroom that Baquet told him he had “lost.” It was for Donald McNeil, though, whom the mob came. And so it was McNeil, who gave nearly a half-century to the Times, who became simply the “Ex-Times Reporter Who Used Racial Slur.”
McNeil explains in his second post that when the original hit piece came out, he “felt that revealing every detail would calm the situation. But it was made clear to me that what the Times wanted was a minimum of detail, reference only to my use of the slur, and an apology as broad and deep as I could make to everyone who felt aggrieved.”
That’s a description that is, sadly, representative of the publication’s philosophy writ large. The Times is a place where truth is subordinated to narrative, and justice is subordinated to self-interest.