News reporters at the New York Times were "pissed off" by the paper's opinion section engaging in what many saw as a new and heightened form of political advocacy, according to a leaked transcript of the op-ed editor's meeting with staffers.
The Huffington Post on Tuesday published a transcript of an internal meeting at the Times that took place in December. The meeting was hosted by Times editorial page editor James Bennet and attended by a number of the paper's staff.
At one point, a staffer asked Bennet to address any "advocacy" the opinion writers and editorial board engage in, according to the transcript.
Bennet then explained how in November, reporters at the paper expressed discontent when the Times used one of its Twitter accounts to push readers to contact their senators and vote against the Republican-backed tax bill, which has since passed into law.
"It had, it had a very big impact," Bennet said, according to the transcript. "It got a lot of people talking. It pissed off our colleagues in the Washington bureau hugely, because it felt to everybody like a more direct form of advocacy than we traditionally do. In reality, I’ve yet to — and maybe one of you can do this — I’ve yet to get the explanation for why that’s the case."
Critics on social media said it may have been too much political engagement for the Times, which used the Twitter account associated with its opinion section to send out tweets an entire day against the tax bill.
Bennet said he disagreed with any accusation that it was inappropriate.
"I think I’m right," he said, according to the transcript. "But it felt — and I think it felt that way because it’s just different than anything we’ve done before. It was therefore shocking people and upsetting. But I’m still scratching around to try to figure out where the violation of principle is here."