NY Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet Under Fire From Paper’s Own Staff

Leaks to HuffPost and Vanity Fair suggest mounting frustration in the newsroom

James Bennet New York Times
James Bennet (YouTube)

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet faces growing headwinds inside the newsroom over his push to allow more intellectual diversity on the Op-Ed page — including a much-criticized piece by an Israeli settler, and the hiring of climate change-questioning, Woody Allen-defending conservative opinion writer Bret Stephens.

This week, Bennet and his team have been the target of multiple leaks to rival news organizations like Vanity Fair and HuffPost.

On Tuesday, a HuffPost article by Ashley Feinberg detailed the contents of a secretly recorded December meeting in which Bennet tried to defend his approach to a dozen newsroom staffers.

“There wasn’t really an advocate for the Bernie Sanders view of the world formally in our pages,” Bennet said of the paper’s 2016 campaign coverage in a transcription of his remarks. “And we’ve had fewer voices to the right for quite some time.”

Vanity Fair‘s Joe Pompeo also reported on internal dissension over Bennet’s handling of the paper’s editorial pages since assuming the role in March 2016 — particularly over this month’s lightning-quick hiring and firing of tech journalist Quinn Norton after the resurfacing of questionable old tweets emerged about her relationships with Nazis.


“People felt like [Opinion] was a shakeup. Now people are worried. The newsroom feels embarrassed,” a senior insider told Pompeo, who reported that some employees are concerned about Bennet “damaging the paper’s credibility.”

A spokesperson fro the New York Times did not immediately respond to inquiries from TheWrap on Tuesday.

With tough social media guidelines for Times journalists — but not opinion writers —  the leaks have abounded. Feinberg’s lengthy piece was based on leaked audio which could only have come from inside the Times newsroom and was actually the second time employees at the paper had leaked frustrations to her rather than address matters internally.

Just weeks ago, a Times employee leaked the contents of internal company Slack messages to Feinberg, which revealed a growing frustration among some journalists with Time Opinion staff editor Bari Weiss over a tweet falsely suggesting that U.S. Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu was an immigrant.

“Frankly microaggressions and people being obtuse cut the deepest,” said one bereaved Times employee via Slack over the Twitter tempest.

“I guess it’s too much to even expect a ‘we’re sorry you’re offended’ apology since asians don’t matter,” said another.

The canting went on much the same way. On Twitter, Feinberg suggested that the Times social media guidelines that give wide berth to opinion writers, but put reporters in a straitjacket were to blame for the recent explosion of leaking. “An easy way for the Times to remedy this would be to let the newsroom staff stand up for themselves on Twitter,” she said.

All of the sniping has taken its toll on the newsroom. On Tuesday, reporter Nick Confessore said that many in the newsroom were deeply frustrated by the recent spake of leaking.

“There is also plenty of anger within the newsroom at the unknown person or persons who are leaking Slack transcripts,” he tweeted Tuesday.