Yale grads pour it on: Three cheers for New York magazine!
More specifically, three cheers for Josh Barro and Olivia Nuzzi, who have now published a detailed report about the way the Washington Post handled that utterly crucial, two-year-old, Halloween costume story.
Through its efforts, the Post managed to get a 54-year-old woman fired from her job in the private sector—all because, two years ago, she tried to mock Megyn Kelly for making unacceptable comments about blackface on Halloween.
To all appearances, the woman had tried to play on the side of those who were attacking Kelly for her unacceptable comments. Two years later, with everyone in the upper-end press corps now pretending to care about matters like this, the woman had to be thrown to the wolves, the ones who live under the bus.
Here's the good news from Barro and Nuzzi's report. It sounds like a lot of staffers at the Post found the their paper's report appalling. Today's report starts like this:
BARRO AND NUZZI (6/25/20): Last week, when Sue Schafer learned that the Washington Post planned to publish a story about one of the dumbest things she had ever done, she had the same question that many readers would have about the resulting 3,000-word article, “Blackface Incident at Post Cartoonist’s 2018 Halloween Party Resurfaces Amid Protests”: Why is this newsworthy?Two years ago, Schaefer wore a costume—a costume people found offensive—to a Halloween party given by a Post cartoonist. To appearances, she was trying to play on the "liberal" side of the aisle when she made her fateful decision.
Readers within the Post newsroom were asking the question, too. “No one I’ve spoken with at the Post can figure out why we published this story,” said one prominent reporter at the paper. “We blew up this woman’s life for no reason.”
Even if you think the woman's choice of costume was offensive, it isn't clear what made the incident newsworthy. But these are revolutionary, Maoist times, and so the Post ran 3000 words on the topic, with the result that the woman is now out of a job.
The sheer stupidity of the Post's behavior is matched by the cowardly way it seems to have protected its own interests. Post reporters seem to agree:
BARRO AND NUZZI: In the hours after publication, the story started to receive widespread criticism from journalists on social media on the grounds that it got its subject fired while lacking news value...The article now has drawn over 2,000 web comments, which are overwhelmingly negative in nature. Yet aside from PR statements to outlets covering the Post’s coverage, the Post’s response to the criticism of this story has been silence. If this is a story with “nuance and sensitivity” that the Post felt “impelled” to run, why is a spirited defense of the Post’s journalism coming only from a non-journalist spokesperson for the paper? The answer we reached, after interviewing ten current Post journalists for this story, is that the paper’s staff generally does not consider the story to be defensible.In short, the impetus for this came from corporate, not from reporters themselves. Barro and Nuzzi even suggest the possibility that the report's lead writer didn't care for the assignment he had been handed by his senior editors.
“My reaction, like everybody, was, What the hell? Why is this a story?” a feature writer at the Post told New York. “My second reaction was, Why is this a 3,000-word feature?” The feature writer added, “This was not drawn up by the ‘Style’ section.”
Employees at “Style”—the paper’s premiere location for long-form storytelling—were confused and displeased to see the piece running on their turf, two Post employees with knowledge of the situation said.
All in all, it seems fairly clear that the Post was covering its big fat asp in the face of these revolutionary times. Idiotic as it might seem, the paper had to get out in front of this non-story story before the paper was frogmarched into the countryside for years of reeducation.
Repeat: Two years ago, a woman who didn't work for the Post attended a Halloween party at a cartoonists house. She appeared in a costume which was designed to mock Megyn Kelly for having made unacceptable comments about blackface at Halloween.
Two years later, that woman has been fired from her job. On the brighter side, the Post has displayed world-class performative virtue in support of its own bottom line. These are the pseudo-revolutionary times in which we're pretending to live.
One last comment:
Until New York magazine published, the Post's behavior had been widely criticized, but only by conservative publications. The people we liberals are trained to respect had been too afraid to speak.
The Post pretended that it cared about a two-year-old racist outrage. We'll suggest that, on balance, our modern journalistic elite knows and cares about virtually nothing.
They don't care about the lives of kids inside our low-income schools. They don't care about the mountains of missing money which are looted away from regular people as part of our health care "system."
They care about wardrobe, makeup and hair. They care about coloring inside the lines.
They care about whatever dumb thing Donald Trump said ten seconds ago. They care about script and repetition. This utterly stupid, self-serving incident makes such facts even more clear.
Concerning the Yale grads pouring it on, please see our next post. But Barro and Nuzzi got it right. Let's say that again.