Dozens of New York Times employees have formed a group to stand up for journalistic independence amid concerns the union representing the Times and hundreds of other news organizations is becoming too much of an advocate for various issues.
The newly-formed “Independence Caucus” comprises high-profile journalists like Megan Twohey, Julian Barnes and Emily Bazelon.
It would work within the confines of the NewsGuild-CWA, and would be open to staffers of rival publications, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“We want to articulate the standards many members are required to follow, and why we think they’re important, and undermining them and compromising them for us is a problem,” said Twohey, who was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team uncovering sexual assault allegations against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The caucus “believes that journalists must be able to report freely, following the facts where they lead with an open mind and without outside interference,” according to a document sent by organizers to the Times Guild, a subsidiary of the larger NewsGuild.
According to the Journal, the founding members of the new union were upset by the NewsGuild’s recent actions, including when the union became involved in its coverage of transgender issues and at a recent virtual meeting in which union members debated the merits of issuing a statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to US government aid to Israel.
Those in support of the new union said such a move would compromise their neutrality and put colleagues in war zones at risk.
Jacob Bernstein, a reporter for the Styles section, argued that it was a mistake for the union to host such a debate without war correspondents who could speak to the safety concerns.
“What does that say about your commitment to discovery to facts and to our welfare?” he asked.
Others argued that the idea of releasing a statement violates New York Times policy, which states, “Staff members may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements,” the Journal reports.
It also served to some as a reminder that the NewsGuild represents groups with conflicting philosophies and rules.
In the aftermath, Twohey messaged her colleagues on Slack about forming the “Independence Caucus.”
“Our national union has grown by leaps and bounds, and some members do not work at media organizations,” she wrote, according to the message reviewed by the Journal.
“We see this caucus as, in part, a way to continue important conversations in our union about how to respect and balance the different priorities of our broad memberships.”
Matthew Rosenberg, who has been covering the war in Gaza, then replied that he agreed.
“I wish we lived at a time where we could let our work speak for ourselves,” he wrote, according to the Journal.
“We don’t and all too often we sit in silence while colleagues in the media (mostly outside the NYT) take overtly political stances.
“Some of us felt it was time that we spoke up.”
Others went even further and are reportedly considering ways of breaking away from the NewsGuild altogether, and have even held meetings with lawyers about that possibility, according to the Journal.
Speaking to the outlet, NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said he supports the forming of a new caucus “and will always support workers coming together debating issues and making our union stronger.”
As to those thinking about leaving the union, he said: “It’s not the way I handle fixing problems. I’m more of the mind, if I want to change something, I get more involved.”
He also denied that the union was taking a stance on the war in Israel, saying the NewsGuild was not actually considering issuing a statement and it simply held the meeting to listen to members who wanted to issue a statement and those who were opposed to the idea.
“We had hundreds of people write to us and call us on all sides,” he told the Journal. “What we had was a listening session to hear from people directly.”
He also said that the NewsGuild has represented organizations “outside of media for a very long time,” saying he believes it’s “good for us” to hold debates.
And he noted that the union’s members and leaders have issued statements and resolutions going back 90 years, when its convention passed a resolution stating that abortion and contraception “should be a personal matter for a woman to decide.”
It reaffirmed that statement last year, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The Post has also reached out to the NewsGuild for comment.
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