Commentary Magazine


The Times Magisterium Scrubs New Editor’s Confession

On Thursday, Peter neatly summarized the reaction of many outside the New York Times newsroom who thought Jill Abramson’s confession that in her parents’ house the Times was not merely the newspaper of record, but holy writ. The newspaper and the liberalism for which it stood, she said, “substituted for religion.” As Peter says, it was “quite useful” for Abramson to say so openly.

Now it appears that Abramson may have had second thoughts about such an admission. Although one might think that the adherents of the church of the New York Times (dwindling but still substantial, especially the secular liberal Jews of whom she is quite typical) would find such words from their faith’s newly appointed pontiff to be quite inspiring, the Times magisterium has rethought Abramson’s confession.

As a number of bloggers wrote the following day, Abramson’s moving quote was removed from the Times’s website within 12 hours and scrubbed from the print version of the article on Friday. Although the first versions of Times articles that go up first on their website are often reedited for subsequent editions, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto observed, eliminating such a revealing quotation had the feel of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in which inconvenient tidbits got tossed down the memory hole. Politico’s “On Media” column subsequently reported that, according to the Times spokeswoman, the elimination of Abramson’s religion quotation was merely a function of limited space and an editing process which is designed to substitute stale quotations for newer and fresher ones. Which is about as credible as the Times’s claim that the content of its news section isn’t written and edited with a massive left-wing bias.

Like Abramson’s words themselves, this attempt to eliminate from the official record an all-too-revealing expression of the thinking of liberals who not only read the Times but also edit it is also quite useful.