As we reported last year, at the instance of student government Notre Dame is providing every student a free online subscription to the New York Times, and only the New York Times.
This is a major departure from a prior program under which free copies of both the Times and the Wall Street Journal were available in the dining halls and LaFortune. The change was made even though the Journal had been a good deal more popular than the Times.
While providing students a single newspaper like the Times with a pronounced political bent is problematical for any university, as we observed in our previous bulletin it is especially so for a Catholic university when, as here, that newspaper supports abortion, same-sex marriage, and governmental infringement of the religious liberty of religious institutions including Notre Dame.
We return to the subject now because recent events have disclosed how extraordinarily hostile the university’s action is to the “free inquiry and open discussion” heralded in its Mission Statement. The Times no longer merely takes sides on controversial issues. Its staff now shouts down and shuts out those who disagree.
Senator Tom Cotton Op-Ed
The most recent revelation of the debasement of the Times began a few weeks ago with the widely publicized Senator Tom Cotton episode. His Times op-ed advocating military force where necessary to quell violent protests triggered an open revolt by a host of Times staffers, which in turn resulted in a humiliating retreat by Times management and finally the June 7 resignation of its respected Opinion Editor James Benet.
In striking contrast, just a few days ago the opinion editors of the Wall Street Journal — which, as we have noted, had earlier been made available to students along with the Times — rebuffed criticism from members of its news staff, deploring “the wave of progressive cancel culture” that has come to “nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution.” The opinion pages, the editors declared, “will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse.”
Bari Weiss Resignation
Back at the Times, a month after the Cotten debacle, the prominent author and political commentator and former Wall Street Journal editor Bari Weiss resigned with a letter that has drawn widespread attention and that we reproduce in principal part below.
For ease in reading, we have not marked our elisions. The full text, which we encourage you to read, is here.
The letter most emphatically speaks for itself. See what you think of the Times’s preferred position at Notre Dame.
To the Publisher of The New York Times
July 14, 2002
Dear A.G. [Sulzberger],
It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.
I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers.
I was honored to be part of that effort. But the lessons that ought to have followed the election have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist. I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.
I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.
Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired.
The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people.
Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do.
I can no longer do the work that you brought me here to do—the work that Adolph Ochs described in that famous 1896 statement: “to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”
Ochs’s idea is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing.
We commend two recent articles by Notre Dame alumni about the drive that has erupted across the cultural and economic landscape to undermine traditional values and demonize their defenders, a drive exemplified by the New York Times episodes.
The first essay, which appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was authored by Sycamore Trust board member Katherine Kersten (’73), who has recently been described as “by far Minnesota’s best columnist and investigative reporter.” It is subtitled “The ‘woke’ movement is built on shows of ‘right thinking’ and Puritan-style intolerance’.”
The second article, “The Great Progressive Propaganda Machine,” which appeared in the estimable The Catholic Thing, was written by David Carlin (’62), a teacher, author, and commentator on issues important to Catholics.