by Ashley Rindsberg
Wednesday, 20
April 2022
Explainer
09:30

The real reason Joe Kahn was appointed NYT editor: China

The paper wants a new audience across the Pacific
by Ashley Rindsberg
Joseph Kahn will replace Dean Baquet as the NYT’s executive editor

One of the strangest moments in any media organisation is when it becomes subject of its own headline. This week the New York Times made global headlines with its announcement that Dean Baquet will be stepping down as executive editor, to be replaced by former China correspondent Joe Kahn.

For many, the first impression concerning Kahn’s appointment is the lack of firsts — there will be no first black female, Hispanic, trans, gay, disabled, or undocumented top editor of the New York Times. In American media’s feverishly woke world, this may register as a major disappointment. It’s also a departure from a pattern set by the paper’s past two executive editors — Jill Abramson (first woman) and Baquet (first African-American).

Kahn is, in fact, the opposite of a first. He’s a Harvard-educated man from a wealthy American family. He’s been groomed for a job just like this one. And that’s precisely why this is significant.

Like CNN, whose new boss pledged to take the channel back to hard news and away from aggressive opinion-making, the New York Times seems to be sailing a little less close to the wind of activist journalism. The Times telltales fluttered a few weeks ago when it published an editorial on cancel culture, not only acknowledging the phenomenon exists but decrying its ill effects.

A “social silencing, this depluralizing of America, has been evident for years, but dealing with it stirs yet more fear,” the Times intoned. While obvious to many readers, a statement of this sort carried considerable risk to the Times — as evidenced by the general moral panic it caused among progressive Twitter.

Has the New York Times suddenly and inexplicably come to its senses? Likely not. The Times has a long, sordid history of doing what it has to do not only to survive but to stay top dog. Today, the paper sees its future in China—or, more specifically, in its 1.4 billion news consumers. It launched a Chinese edition of the paper and a luxury lifestyle magazine geared towards the country’s leisure class. And it will pursue this goal no matter what the cost, including by toeing the line on issues sensitive to the CCP. With the hiring of Kahn, the former China correspondent, the pull here is obvious.

Still, trying to steer a course into China will be no easy feat. That is, on top of dealing with the mountains of domestic criticism resulting from Baquet-era scandals — of which there are many. If this is the case, Kahn certainly has his work cut out for him.

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Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 months ago

I unsubscribed to the NYTIMES about 5 years ago (after 35 years!) when it was getting wackier than ever – a propaganda sheet with terrible writing….so I don’t really care what it does now.

Last edited 2 months ago by Cathy Carron
J Bryant
J Bryant
2 months ago

It has often been said that the internet destroyed journalism. The continued existence of successful print organizations such as the NYT seems to contradict that simple assertion, but I think their existence provides the most compelling evidence.
The NYT still looks, at a distance, like a news organization but it’s not. It’s nothing more than a mouthpiece for the latest fad that will attract subscribers en masse. They don’t even pretend to objectively report the news.
If tomorrow a cult of tortoises arises and attracts a huge following of wild-eyed devotees willing to spend money on their new quasi- religion, the NYT will become the publication of tortoises. It will become the New York Tortoise. It will “report” on the schism between the Big Tortoises and Little Tortoises; it will denounce the non-believers and anti-tortoiseists. To expect anything more, or less, is to misunderstand what the NYT has become.
I wish them well in China. They will not have to spend money on journalists or editors. The CCP will tell them exactly what to print.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

What the internet (Facebook in particular) was cause journalism to become a much more wealthy middle class affair.
Local newspapers used to provide a route into journalism for youngsters from poorer families, where the best ones could move on into the more established national papers/news. However those papers were almost wholly reliant on advertising revenue to survive. When the big tech companies started hoovering up all money from advertising many of them folded, leaving much fewer pathways into a career in journalism so now for many the only way in is through unpaid internships in expensive major cities. This for obvious reasons prevents many poorer children from getting a start, so now you have a situation whereby nearly all journalists come from the same social class and have a very uniformed outlook on life. There’s simply very little diversity in thought anymore as all journalists come from the same stock, and journalism is much poorer for it

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree with what you say about journalism looking the same with titles on railway station news racks still being there. But in reality it has been changed changed out of all recognition by the digitisation of content (and rise of the smart phone cameras) in under two decades.
There is an unacknowledged but toxic relationship between MSM (legacy media) and social media.
It isn’t as crude as overtly chasing clicks or hiring people with big follower numbers, if it was that crude it might be better understood.
But the old editorial conferences are now little more than looking at the various trending lists to make sure they are curating them (recycling them) through feature or opinion writers and reviewing the interactions and clicks being generated.
This encourages an imperceptible movement towards refining views to try and maximise these metrics; the most forward looking they can access.
Unfortunately for them compelling breaking news is now almost entirely produced by non-professional journalists outwith the old media organisations and this means opinion journalism has taken the place of reporting.
This is inherently more likely, (even certain eventually), to create siloed-thinking in news organisation managment and newsrooms.
Coupled with the internet’s tendency toward favouring video over stills means all organisations are crowding into the online video delivery space and dying, or amalgamating, as they do, reducing plurality , just as it reduces the ability of any organisation to have that reputational clout that large, respected newspapers had half a century ago.

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
2 months ago

Gee, little Joey looks like a bloke you’d love to have a beer with.