This Vanity Fair story, about the New York Times’s deliberations over sexual harassment against political reporter Glenn Thrush, is framed as a struggle between the New York headquarters, which reportedly favors tough action against Thrush, and the paper’s Washington bureau, most members of which feel Thrush should not be severely punished.
Those of us with long memories will recall an earlier struggle between the Times’s New York base and its Washington bureau. It’s the centerpiece of the brilliantly gifted Gay Talese’s book The Kingdom and the Power, published in 1969 about events that took place almost exactly 50 years ago and reprinted most recently in 2007. The issue there is different — the central struggle is between the Washington bureau’s James Reston, former bureau chief and hugely influential reporter and columnist in his day, and the New York editors who want to put their own man in as bureau chief.
The protagonists assume that this struggle is earthshakingly important, just as many observers today think the issue of sexual harassment and predation is earthshakingly important.
I leave it to readers to judge the degree of earthshaking importance of each New York/Washington struggle. But one difference between the two is the subject matter: one is about how the newspaper covers the news, the other about how its employees treat each other. It’s an interesting sign of the changes in the times—and the Times.