In December, New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet met with a group of Times employees to answer questions about his much-questioned opinion section. At the time, A.G. Sulzberger, now publisher of the Times, was conducting a tour of the company he was about to inherit, meeting with employees from different corners of the newspaper. The Q&A session with Bennet was apparently convened in a similar spirit of transparency and goodwill. But according to some Times staffers who were present, little clarity was offered by Bennet and even less goodwill was spread. One person who was there, still angry more than two months later, called Bennet’s answers “equivocal bullshit.”
In the meeting, a recording of which was recently viewed and transcribed by HuffPost, Bennet talked extensively about some of the choices he’d made since his hiring in 2016, the problems he’d encountered, the criticism he’d received both internally and externally, and his successes and failures.
It was as frank an explication as Bennet has given of how he conceives of the opinion section. Slaloming between contradictions, Bennet laid out an ideology of no ideology. The editorial page is beholden to no priors (except when it is). It proudly forswears the idea of right answers (except when it doesn’t). It is humanist and ecumenical but also of the belief, for instance, that some kinds of ethnic cleansing are worthy of debate.