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Politico’s Shafer: Embarrassing Tweets by Journalists Are Fair Game for Exposure

by | Aug 28, 2019

By P.J. Gladnick

If New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger is looking for support from other media outlets for his complaint about embarrassing tweets by journalists for his newspaper being exposed, he can cross Politico off his list. Senior media writer Jack Shafer has no sympathy for that complaint as he made clear in his Monday Politico Magazine article, “Why Journalists’ Old Tweets Are Fair Game for Trump.”

The subtitle of his story is even more specific and points directly at the Gray Lady, “New York Times editors don’t deserve special immunity from scrutiny for bigoted speech.”

…of all the thin-skinned beasts prowling the journalistic forest, few have a thinner epidermis than the boys and girls who work at the New York Times. On Monday, the Times’ immune system was activated to produce a Page One story to retaliate against pro-Trump activist Arthur Schwartz, an intimate of Donald Trump Jr. Schwartz, the Times reports, is part of a network of pro-Trumpies who have been digging for embarrassing dirt on journalists who work for Trump-critical media—CNN, the Washington Post, and, of course, the New York Times. According to the Times, the network shares its embarrassing discoveries—call them oppo research, if you’d like—with conservative political operations and then stands by to enjoy the drama.

Shafer’s ears are deaf to the sad sounds of the Times violins.

As much as I would like to sympathize with my fellow journalists, it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to ask them to own or repudiate vile or impolitic things they might have stated in the past. Nor is it remotely unfair for the president’s supporters to demand that journalists, who are forever denouncing him as a racist (because he is) be held accountable for their bigoted speech, on Twitter or anywhere else. Journalists don’t deserve a get-out-of-bigotry-jail free card just because they’re journalists. If their past tweets, however ancient, undercut their current journalistic work or make them sound hypocritical, they can’t blame their diminished prestige on Trump’s allies. It’s like blaming a cop for writing you a ticket for speeding in a school zone.

…Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger did himself, his paper and his staff no favor by issuing a public memo to his staff decrying what he called an unprecedented “coordinated campaign … to attack hundreds of journalists in retaliation for coverage of the administration.” Sulzberger wrote: “This represents an escalation of an ongoing campaign against the free press.”

…Sulzberger tempered his protest toward the end of his memo by writing, “But I also want to be clear: No organization is above scrutiny, including the Times.” But that’s an example of wanting to have it both ways. If the press is not above scrutiny, it shouldn’t bellyache when truth-squaded—even if the best dirt the truth-squaders can surface is encrusted in dust and mold.

It sounds like what Shafer is saying (other than the racist smear on Trump, or the assumption that Trump fans here are “bad-faith actors”) is that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Or, what goes around comes around. And for those of New Age inclinations you could say this is an example of Karmatic Kickback.

NewsBusters Clay Waters goes into more detail on the Times whine over this exposure in “New York Times Shrieks ‘WAR ON THE PRESS’ When Twitter Turnabout Is Fair Play.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at Newsbusters and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Media Bias
Tags: media