The latest letter, written by correspondent Jeremy Peters, was sent Tuesday and accused the paper’s union – known as its guild – of effectively stifling journalistic independence.
It is the latest chapter in a saga that began last week, when 1,000 current and former writers criticized the Times for its increasingly skeptical coverage of transgender issues in an open letter.
Executive editor Joe Kahn responded to last week’s letter by emailing staff that they should not participate in ‘protests organized by advocacy groups.’
He noted that participating in ‘such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy.’ Some unnamed staffers are said to have been disciplined for signing the letter.
News Guild of New York President Susan DeCarava then sent a letter to its members at the Times — on a private mailing list — saying that the employees who wrote the letter are protected against a ‘hostile work environment.’
But in his letter on Tuesday, Peters argued the union was wrongfully getting involved in editorial decisions — and was stifling ‘journalistic independence.’
New York Times contributor Jeremy Peters, left, published a letter criticizing The News Guild of New York President Susan DeCarava, right, for saying that employees critical of the Times coverage of transgender issues are protected from a ‘hostile work environment’
The New York Times was accused by some of its own writers and contributors of a ‘bias’ approach to reporting on the debate around trans rights
Peters’ letter – and the Times’ defense of its journalism – marks a remarkable turnaround for a paper whose bosses were once seen as being cowed by woke staff’s insistence on covering contentious social stories in a skewed way that matches their own beliefs.
The entire row began last week over two separate letters mailed to the Times.
The first was the one signed by present and former contributors.
Meanwhile, GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the Human Rights Campaign coordinated a separate public letter signed by celebrities and activist groups condemning the New York Times’ ‘irresponsible, biased coverage of transgender people’.
They singled out the science team for particular condemnation, arguing they had set about ‘undermining support for transgender youth by writing ‘just asking questions’ stories about medically approved best practices for gender-affirming healthcare’.
And they criticized the opinion desk for publishing articles by staff columnist Pamela Paul, insisting The New York Times was wrong to give ‘space for her unfounded thoughts about how LGBTQ people should describe themselves’.
Another letter, also sent on Wednesday, was signed by 1,000 current and former contributors to the paper.
Recent stories on whether it is appropriate to give underage transgender children puberty blockers or mastectomies have angered woke Times staffers and their supporters.
Another on whether it was right for teachers’ to hide students’ decision to change gender from parents sparked further fury, as did stories on whether transgender women should be allowed to compete against biological women in some sports.
Management quickly became upset with the protests, with Kahn writing in an email to staff members that ‘participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy,’ he said.
‘That policy prohibits our journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and joining protest actions on matters of public policy.
‘We also have a clear policy prohibiting Times journalists from attacking one another’s journalism publicly or signaling their support for such attacks.’
In the aftermath, DeCarava posted a public letter on the Times’ listserv affirming the right of employees to criticize the paper, Semafor reports, saying that ’employees are protected in collectively raising concerns that conditions of their employment constitute a hostile working environment.
‘This was the concern explicitly raised in the letter at issue here.,’ she claimed.
But some at the paper became irked by the union’s response, with one reporter, Stephanie Saul, posting in the union’s Slack: ‘Criticism of workplace conditions does not include attacking the journalism of other members.
‘I strongly object to this letter and I hope of the members of the unit agree with me.’
Joe Kahn, the executive editor of The New York Times, on Thursday wrote to staff telling them it is against the company’s ethics policy to participate in protests against the company
GLAAD parked a mobile billboard outside The New York Times’ offices in Manhattan last Wednesday
By Tuesday, Peters had penned his letter to DeCarava, claiming the union does not understand ‘our responsibility as journalists,’ and expressing his desire that the union ‘work to advance, not erode, our journalistic independence.’
‘Like you, we support the right to a non-hostile work environment where everyone is respected and supported,’ he wrote. ‘We believe the New York Times should never engage in biased or discriminatory practices of any kind.
‘We all strive to be part of a truly diverse news organization where everyone is treated fairly,’ Peters continued. ‘We welcome robust and respectful critical feedback from colleagues, either in direct conversation or through internal Times channels.
‘But your letter appears to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of our responsibilities as journalists.
‘Regretfully, our own union leadership now seems determined to undermine the ethical and professional protections that we depend on to guard the independence and integrity of our journalism,’ Peters continued.
‘Factual, accurate journalism that is written, edited and published in accordance with Times sandards does not create a hostile workplace,’ he asserted, noting: ‘Every day, partisan actors seek to influence, attack or discredit our work. We accept that.
‘But what we don’t accept is what the Guild appears to be endorsing: A workplace in which any opinion or disagreement about Times coverage can be recast as a matter of “workplace conditions.”
‘Our duty is to be independent,’ Peters said. ‘We pursue the facts wherever they lead. We are journalists, not activists. That line should be clear.’
Peters then went on to say that he and the others who signed the letter ‘understand and respect that the Guild has an absolute duty to offer representation to members when they are subject to discipline by management.
‘But we do not think it is the role of our union to be engaged in — and taking sides in — public debate over internal editorial decisions.
‘Our hope is that the coming days will bring more constructive internal dialogue among Times employees with Guild leadership that can help unify and improve our news organization,’ Peters concluded. ‘And we ask that our union work to advance, not erode, our journalistic independence.’
The letter was signed by bigwigs at the New York Times including White House correspondent Peter Baker; Washington correspondent Charlie Savage; media correspondent Michael Grynbaum and national correspondent Kate Zernike.
In a statement to Vanity Fair, the News Guild responded by saying it is ‘committed to representing every member equally and fairly regardless of reporting assignment.
‘We take no position on the subject of editorial coverage and fight hard for every members’ right to work in a healthy and safe environment, free of harassment and discrimination.
‘These are principles that are at the core of trade unions and are central to our mission.’
It added that the letter from the New York Times’ bosses implied ‘that employees of The New York Times who have or are choosing to sign on to a public letter that is. om [art. critical of recent employment decisions and historic workplace conditions affecting LGBTQIA employees, could face discipline in doing so.
‘It would be a violation of federal law for the New York Times to threaten, restrain or coerce employees from engaging in such activity.
‘The journalists we represent at the New York Times, and across all of our union newsrooms understand the difficulty of navigating such rights to speak on different issues, and are aware that protecting those rights often includes defending members expressing a variety of viewpoints,’ the union continued.
‘It is our collective role to ensure members are protected when they raise concerns at work.’
The New York Times published an op-ed in defense of J.K. Rowling’s trans views a day after two open letters, signed by celebrities, campaign groups and hundreds of the paper’s own writers, accused the paper of bias in its reporting of trans issues
Meanwhile, editors at the Times do not seem to be giving in to the peer pressure — publishing an op-ed defending controversial author J.K. Rowling just one day after receiving the letters criticizing them for their coverage of transgender issues.
Former books editor Pamela Paul wrote the piece, entitled In Defense of J.K. Rowling.
She referred in her article to the new ‘The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling’ podcast by Megan Phelps-Roper – a former member of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church – based on nine hours of interviews with Rowling which explore her views and the backlash she faced.
The op-ed states: ‘As Rowling herself notes on the podcast, she’s written books where from the very first page, bullying and authoritarian behavior is held to be one of the worst of human ills’.
‘Those who accuse Rowling of punching down against her critics ignore the fact that she is sticking up for those who have silenced themselves to avoid the job loss, public vilification and threats to physical safety that other critics of recent gender orthodoxies have suffered.’