Untable was the principle stated by the New York Times last week in a kerfuffle about a respected reporter who was disfellowshipped for using the N-word in an innocent discussion about the N-word. Fortunately for the next victim, but not the last, the newspaper belatedly realized the mistake of their ways.
Donald G. McNeil Jr. “did a lot of good coverage over four decades,” management said, despite escorting him out the door. The editor-in-chief Dean Baquet had previously refused to fire Mr. McNeil because of the two-year-old incident. He said it was clear that the term was not used “hateful or malicious”.
But that was before a tsunami of intolerance by the forces of tolerance in paper. Mr Baquet announced last week that Mr McNeil would eventually leave because “we will not tolerate racist language, regardless of intent.” Oops, it was generally advised that the Times would then have to fire itself. A Factiva search shows that as early as 1969 and just a week ago the paper used the word 1,271 times to cover the world. The new standard, “a threat to our journalism,” was “a mistake in scheduling and I regret it,” admitted Mr Baquet on Thursday.
What a mess. I don’t know Mr. Baquet. After all, he’s a good person and a good reporter, but you know how he behaves here – he acts like someone who knows he can’t trust his own boss to help him make a decision that is at is unpopular to the woken up mob
Contrary to the myth, John Kennedy last said in Profiles in Courage that persons in authority should be ready at any moment to throw away their livelihood on a principled basis. Mr Baquet will not get any advice from me as to whether his job is now impossible or whether it is doubly important that he stays with me for après-moi reasons.