What is happening at the New York Times? Why was an award-winning journalist fired for expressing hope?
In a since-deleted tweet that got award-winning journalist and war correspondent Lauren Wolfe fired from America’s leading journal of record, Wolfe said she got “chills” seeing Joe Biden’s plane land in Washington D.C. ahead of his inauguration.
Anybody with a pulse and a soul would’ve gotten chills. A mostly nonpartisan political soul, even I breathed a hefty sigh of relief at some semblance of sanity being restored to this great nation after what seems like a four-year abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist. I am a journalist and I serve the truth. I try to keep my opinions to myself. But come on, I’m human, and so is Lauren Wolfe. That’s what makes a her a great journalist.
Lauren Wolfe’s Twitter account was very benign. I say was because it has since been deleted entirely. One of the last tweets I saw Wolfe post said she was not an ideology, just a hard-working journalist. And it’s true. Wolfe mostly used her Twitter account to post photos of her rescue dog Moose, or to link to her work, or express very mild and gentle opinions and feelings in the context of the broader turmoil this world has been experiencing recently, whether the state of American politics or the pandemic and the conditions of life in New York City.
To understand where Wolfe is coming from, generally: she is a mensch, a queer super empath with an undying commitment to women and girls around the globe. At no small expense to herself she has covered the worst human atrocities in the most war-torn regions. She has reported most recently on the unthinkable: the rape of small children and babies as a device of war. This goes on. I know it does.
Like Wolfe, I am a journalist. I have seen wire images that I would like to unsee. But Wolfe lives these stories every day. She reports on them with the mandate that journalism can bring about justice. That the truth will set us free. But, as Gloria Steinem rightly observed, at first it will piss you off. And I would add, it will piss off other people. From fascists to paparazzi who came after Wolfe, hounding her in public. Nothing seems to piss off the powers that be more than a woman telling the truth on behalf of herself and 51 percent of the global population.
Is Wolfe entitled to feel moved by the arrival of the 46th president of the United States? Is she entitled to express cautious joy in dark times, and on a digital platform that was designed to be a tool for freedom of speech, even though it has become a haven for fascists and bots? Her tweet, since deleted, was subjective. It was human. It seemed to take comfort in the spectacle of Democracy in action. Did it threaten the so-called objectivity of the storied masthead for which she worked? If we’re being real here, not a jot.
Lauren Wolfe is a hard-working journalist who files assignments on topics that would destroy the equilibrium of most people. I don’t know what her arrangement with the Times was; whether she was on contract, and whether one tweet violated that contract or whether it was a capstone on other issues (whatever they could be); what her relationship was with her editors, to the newsroom, to deadline, to the readership, to the many NGOs with which she works…or any other possible reasons behind her removal. But I believe that Wolfe, who is, professionally-speaking, in the company of so many entrenched and perfidious males at major mastheads, should be given the benefit of the doubt.
I would expect at least from the New York Times something better than “no further comment.”
In the meantime, there is a growing movement calling for Wolfe to be reinstated and a push to offer her financial aid through Venmo and GoFundMe.