The New York Times Guild apologized Sunday for a tweet that said a piece by Times columnist Bret Stephens “reeks.”
On Friday, Stephens wrote a column that criticized the paper’s “1619 Project” — which examined how the legacy of slavery continues to affect American life today.
In response, the Guild tweeted this now-deleted response: “It says a lot about an organization when it breaks it’s own rules and goes after one of it’s [sic] own. The act, like the article, reeks.”
“We deleted our previous tweet,” said the union’s Twitter. “It was tweeted in error. We apologize for the mistake.”
The Times’ media reporter Ben Smith reported that the now-deleted tweet originated from one of the chapter leaders who did not discuss it with other members of the Guild. It created a “heated discussion” among members and led to the post being taken down.
In Friday, Stephens called the “1619 Project,” which won a Pulitzer, ambitious, but said it ultimately failed.
The “1619 Project” was a landmark undertaking for the Times that connected the centrality of slavery in history with an unflinching account of the brutal racism that endures in so many aspects of American life today. It was launched in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies that would become the United States, and it examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, including the principles of our democracy itself.
Stephens wrote in his Friday piece, “In some ways, this ambition succeeded. The 1619 Project introduced a date, previously obscure to most Americans, that ought always to have been thought of as seminal — and probably now will. It offered fresh reminders of the extent to which Black freedom was a victory gained by courageous Black Americans, and not just a gift obtained from benevolent whites.”
He went on, “But ambition can be double-edged. 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.”
According to Times’ media reporter Ben Smith,
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