The New York Times’ executive editor said that the media’s critique of the paper's recent in-depth profile of a Nazi sympathizer in Ohio stems from a lost “sense of inquiry and willingness to debate.”
“I get the criticism. Some people think we shouldn't write about Nazis at all. Some think the story wasn't deep enough,” Dean Baquet told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.
“I'm happy to engage in those discussions, and I have,” Baquet explained. “I've had debates with thoughtful people about the piece. But an enormous number of the people I've engaged have not actually read the story. They are swayed by the tweets and the shorthand versions of the story.”
On Saturday, the Times published Richard Fausset's profile of white nationalist Tony Hovater, a regular guest on the podcast “Radio Aryan” and a founding member of the Traditionalist Worker Party that marched in the August rally in Charlottesville, Va.
The story quickly fell under scrutiny from members of media and readers alike who saw it as “normalizing” Nazism.
Critics pointed out how Fausset described Hovater as a guy with “Midwestern values” that enjoys the show “Seinfeld” and recently married his girlfriend, Maria.
In response to the backlash, Marc Lacey, the Times' national editor, wrote, “We deeply regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” in a Sunday op-ed defending his publication.
While welcoming the debate, Lacey explained, “What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”
But the criticisms from members of the media didn’t stop there. One piece from Vox said that “depicting Nazis as ordinary gives them power.” A Huffington Post reporter tweeted, “what a bullshit fucking apology,” in response to Lacey's op-ed.
Addressing the critiques from his media counterparts, Baquet suggested that criticisms come from a lack of understanding of “meaningful” journalism.
He further clarified the distinction between criticisms from the readers and the criticisms from his counterparts in the business.
He explained that while he understands the readers’ critiques, much of the pushback in the media comes from people who haven’t “actually done much journalism.”
“There are some professors and pundits who are so utterly, absolutely certain of their views that they've lost all sense of inquiry and willingness to debate. Most of those people have done no meaningful journalism. And I can call names, but I won't,” Baquet explained.
The Times learned on Wednesday that Hovater and his wife lost their jobs due to the newfound attention that caused hostility at the restaurant where they were employed and they will be moving due to security concerns.