The late sixties and early seventies were heady times for journalists. America’s leading newspapers covered the anti-Vietnam War protests, the rising “counterculture” and the descending Richard Nixon. Newspaper reporting was glamorous, attracting many students who trooped into schools of journalism. They landed poorly paid but prestigious jobs at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other big-city papers.
The Era of the Liberal News Reporter
Many young reporters worked hard and wore their liberalism as badges of honor. They fought against Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes, then led the revolt against Donald Trump. They cheered for Bill Clinton and then cheered louder for Barack Obama. They made their way up through the ranks. A few were able to grab the brass ring and sit behind office doors with “Editor in Chief” stenciled on the glass.
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Now, many of these veterans are being forced out of their jobs for which they worked so hard and long. Instead of notebooks and pencils, the young reporters under them wield guillotines. The intended victims are not the powerful, the corrupt, or the Republicans – but rather the editors.
The Wischnowski Saga
The prototype of these newsroom revolutions is the Philadelphia Inquirer and its former editor, Stan Wischnowski. He cut his journalistic teeth in Detroit and Rochester. He joined the Inquirer staff in 2000, holding seven positions there over nineteen years.
Then disaster struck. On June 2, the Inquirer carried a story about the riots that consumed the nation’s attention over the summer. The story was titled “Buildings Matter, Too.” In downtown Philadelphia, many buildings – and the businesses in them – were damaged or destroyed. The Inquirer supported the “protests” but also wanted to make another point that contradicted the narrative of Antifa and BLM. It appeared in the seventh paragraph.
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“’People over property’ is great as a rhetorical slogan. But as a practical matter, the destruction of downtown buildings in Philadelphia — and in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and a dozen other American cities — is devastating for the future of cities. We know from the civil rights uprisings of the 1960s that the damage will ultimately end up hurting the very people the protests are meant to uplift.”
The Riots Claim a Victim
The radicals sprang into action, falsely claiming that the Inquirer was equating people with property – an unforgivable sin. No matter how much prior praise was given to the “protesters,” the radicals tolerate no criticism.
The Inquirer issued an abject eight-paragraph apology the next day. “The Philadelphia Inquirer published a headline in Tuesdays’ edition that was deeply offensive. We should not have printed it. We’re sorry and regret that we did…. The headline offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement…. That is unacceptable.” The apology gave a brief account of the headline process – one which Mr. Wischnowski oversaw along with everything else in the newspaper, but in which he played no direct role. “This incident makes clear that changes are needed, and we are committing to start immediately.”
Still, the reporters seethed. On June 6, Stan Wischnowski announced his resignation. The career climbing that took almost twenty years ended in four days.
Not an Isolated Incident
A recent article in Commentary Magazine shows that the Philadelphia incident is not isolated. Citing “unforeseen challenges,” the Los Angeles Times executive editor left at the end of 2020. The Washington Post editor set his departure for February 28, 2021. The editor-in-chief of news agency Reuters is retiring in April 2021.
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The trend isn’t limited to the world of print journalism. The president of the cable network MSNBC left in 2020. The president of CNN plans to exit at the end of 2021. The very liberal online companies Vox and HuffPost are both heading out under new leadership.
The Commentary article quoted a former Washington Post reporter who is exalting in the changeover.
“A new generation of leaders is coming! And they have a lot of urgent repair work ahead of them. That includes abandoning the failed, anachronistic notions of objectivity under which they have operated for so long, recognizing and rejecting establishment whiteness, and finding dramatically more effective ways to create an informed electorate” (Emphasis added).
Leveling the Hierarchy
The changes in these newspapers parallel the social leveling that the “woke” desire so emphatically. Reputation means nothing. Age and experience are of no value. In fact, these norms of the old establishment are deemed detrimental to the new journalism. Established lines of authority and responsibility are passé. Patiently waiting for the eventual rewards of a job well done is a sign of acceptance of the oppressive power structure and its “systemic racism.”
The leveling of the media hierarchy is part of a revolutionary process by which one phase of this revolution supersedes the prior one. The radicalization of the new journalist overturns the processes and procedures that govern the old. The new radicals are willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of “woke” ideology.
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They have little sentimentality when throwing off the restraints of the past. Even objective truth is now considered expendable as the media serve this new revolution. Even old fellow travelers and friends, who blazed the way for the present post-truth era, must be sacrificed in the mad rush to push society leftward. The old guard, on its part, often plays its role by resigning itself to its destruction.
As history clearly shows, revolutions feed on their own.
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