Who runs a newspaper – and especially a great liberal newspaper – in a digital age when liberalism often seems to be in retreat, menaced by its enemies internal and external? In the not-too-recent past, the question would be easily answered: the editor, supported by his (for in the past it was usually ‘his’) senior journalists ran the paper. Things are more complicated now.
At least they appear more complicated at the Guardian and at the New York Times. At both papers, each the proud inheritors of certain liberal traditions, one may no longer say with confidence that editorial control of the paper resides with the editorial staff.
This evening, the columnist Suzanne Moore announced she is leaving the Guardian. It is hard to avoid the thought this is intimately related to the episode earlier this year when hundreds of Guardian staff and contractors, many of them working for the paper’s commercial and tech departments, denounced a column Moore had written. Typically, they did not name Moore but the target of their ire was obvious. Moore was guilty of Wrongthink and there must be no place for her kind of feminism – especially as it relates to transgender issues – in a liberal newspaper. For if a liberal paper cannot insist upon certain boundaries, certain orthodoxies, then what kind of liberal paper is it?
A good question and one the Guardian can no more satisfactorily answer than can the New York Times. There, James Bennet, custodian of the paper’s comment section, was forced out for the appalling crime of doing his job. At the height of a summer of civil unrest across America, Bennet published an op-ed by senator Tom Cotton given the provocative headline ‘Send in the Troops’.
Cue uproar; NYT employees objected to the presence of something as offensive as this in their pages.