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Stephens argued in his piece that the project, which contends that America’s true history began in 1619, the year African slaves arrived in the US, has been a “gift” to critics of the Times who argue the paper has become “fake, biased, partisan and an arm of the radical left.”
“Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded,” Stephens wrote.
The dissenting opinion appeared to not sit well with the Guild, as they tweeted out their own criticism of the story and used it to criticize the Times itself.
“It says a lot about an organization when it breaks its own rules and goes after one of its own. The act, like the article, reeks,” their account tweeted.
That tweet, however, was deleted the very next day with the union chalking it up to an “error.”
“We deleted our previous tweet. It was tweeted in error. We apologize for the mistake,” they tweeted.
We deleted our previous tweet. It was tweeted in error. We apologize for the mistake.
— NYTimesGuild (@NYTimesGuild) October 12, 2020
The “error” has only earned the paper and the union plenty of criticism and mocking on social media.
“God forbid they admit that it was a lowbrow move on their part, one for which they genuinely feel remorse, as opposed to some technical error,” journalist Mike Breslin tweeted.
“This is a bad look for journalism,” CNN’s SE Cupp wrote about the Guilds’ tweet.
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) October 12, 2020
My finger slipped. https://t.co/f7KEGjnfZU
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) October 12, 2020
New York Times’ media columnist Ben Smith tweeted that someone with the Guild posted the tweet without “internal discussion” and caused “furor” and “heated objections” from colleagues.
Someone else active in the Times Union tells me that a leader of the chapter, who runs the account, tweeted about the Stephens column without any internal discussion, causing a furor in Slack and drawing heated objections from others in the Guild, and leading to this: https://t.co/7LPoulxaa7
— Ben Smith (@benyt) October 12, 2020
Times’ publisher AG Sulzberger went into cleanup mode following the Guild’s tweet, assuring its backing of the 1619 Project and that Stephens’ piece does not represent an “institutional shift” in the paper’s support for the work.
Our publisher AG Sulzberger shared this statement on the 1619 Project with employees this evening pic.twitter.com/wu7JeqhY3N
— Jake Silverstein (@jakesilverstein) October 12, 2020
While we disagree strongly with Bret’s column, we welcome debate about the historical analysis The 1619 Project rigorously advances. I’m proud of the fact that over the past year, the project has had such a profound impact on discussions about our history.
— Jake Silverstein (@jakesilverstein) October 10, 2020
“I believe strongly in the right of Opinion to produce a piece, even when – maybe even especially when – we don’t agree with it as an institution,” the publisher claimed.
The 1619 Project has become hotly debated in recent months with the Trump administration seeking to block the progressive piece from being taught in schools, and numerous critics accusing the work of distorting history and calling on Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer to be revoked.
A group of scholars, myself included, are calling on the Pulitzer Board to revoke the prize awarded earlier this year to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her "1619 Project" essay:https://t.co/PHKJx614Q6
— Glenn Loury (@GlennLoury) October 6, 2020
The debate over the 1619 Project is only one of the many controversies the Times has found itself in this year. The paper found itself dealing with internal protests after publishing an op-ed over the summer from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) calling for the military to be used as a last resort to deal with violent Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the US.
This led to James Bennett, the editorial page editor at the time, to step down. Opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss left too, revealing there was a “civil war” at the paper.
“Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery,” she wrote in a fiery resignation letter.
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