posted at 1:01 pm on December 6, 2016 by John Sexton
New York Times public editor Liz Spayd appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show Monday night and criticized her own paper’s liberal bias, suggesting some tweets by reporters were out of line. That did not go over well with some progressive journalists who felt Spayd should not be agreeing, even a little bit, with a conservative host on Fox News.
Spayd said she had received hundreds of messages from readers who were upset with the NY Times’ coverage of Donald Trump. She actually called many of them to find out more about what was bothering them. “What I was most surprised by is how many liberal readers who I called who were angry at the New York Times,” Spayd said. “Yes, because it was unfair,” Carlson replied.
Spayd did say that the “vast majority” of journalists at the Times have “high journalistic standards.” However when Tucker Carlson read her a sample of tweets from news reporters she became more critical. Here are some of the tweets Carlson mentioned:
White House as QVC. It has started. pic.twitter.com/jk0DeQJ9vV
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) November 15, 2016
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) November 21, 2016
The Electoral College was meant to stop men like Trump from taking office https://t.co/sOSV2X57PZ
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) November 22, 2016
“These are news reporters saying this stuff?” Carlson asked. “Yeah, I think that’s outrageous,” Spayd replied. She added, “I think that that should not be.
“They shouldn’t be tweeted and they shouldn’t…and it does concern me that that would be, that that’d be…I mean everybody is going to have their personal political views, we all do, but they ought to be personal. And if you sign up to be a journalist than that’s what you ought to be.”
When Carlson suggested that reporters should be threatened with firing if they didn’t stop offering their opinions on Twitter, Spayd pushed back a little. “I don’t know, I don’t know that any of those people should be fired but I do think that when people do go over the line like that—and I think some of those are over the line—that there ought to be some kind of a consequence for that.” Spayd also rejected the idea that partisan tweets were debasing the NY Times’ journalism but she did agree it was not in keeping with the Times’ business model.
Despite offering a nuanced position, i.e. agreeing with some of what Carlson said and disagreeing with other parts of it, Spayd received criticism from progressive journalists who didn’t like the spectacle of the NY Times public editor agreeing with a conservative Fox News opinion host:
if the person you hired to be in charge of journalistic integrity is going on tucker carlson’s show and agreeing with him, get a new person
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) December 5, 2016
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 5, 2016
Note to NYT Public Editor: if you’re telling a Fox News hack that your reporters should be punished for honesty, you’re doing it wrong. https://t.co/cBuhmGda1x
— Jacob Weisberg (@jacobwe) December 6, 2016
In response to the backlash, Spayd tempered her criticism a bit Monday night. From Politico:
In retrospect, I should have held back more, not knowing what the context was for the tweets. I think that’s a fair criticism,” Spayd told Morning Media in a brief email exchange last night. “But I stand by my view that journalists should be careful, sometimes more careful than they are, with what they say on social media. That includes how it can be interpreted.”
That was not good enough for Jay Rosen:
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 6, 2016
I get the feeling he’s more upset about the latter part of that (“tossing ammo to the culture warriors”) than the former part. Here’s the full interview with Liz Spayd.