From The Weekly (all images courtesy FX)

“I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

And with that, LeBron James announced in 2010 that he was going to the Miami Heat, the culmination of a drawn-out process dubbed “The Decision.” Much of the animosity James faced at the time was due to the move in general, sure, but more than that, it was about the pomp and circumstance he forced everyone through. A strikingly similar process was undertaken by the New York Times editorial board when the time came to endorse a Democratic candidate for president. They did so via an episode of the Times’ FX television series, The Weekly, which has been plagued by low ratings since its premiere last year. Clips from interviews with each candidate were circulated days beforehand in an attempt to boost hype, all of which crystallized on the evening of January 19, in an experience journalist Ashley Feinberg characterized as “watching the paper crumble under the weight of its own self-importance.”

From The Weekly

An impressive amount of care and resources undeniably goes into the creation of The Weekly, building from stories that are reported in the paper and adding new dimensions to them. But as I wrote last year after seeing the first couple of episodes, the show seems preoccupied with asserting the Times’ significance and authority. The endorsement episode is a clear confirmation of my suspicion, a desperately cynical attempt to drum up interest amid low enthusiasm. If the aim of the series is to make the process of reportage transparent and sexy, this is the most compelling argument yet of the institution’s actual impotence. 

To be clear, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea to make the traditionally private endorsement process more public, allowing citizens to potentially see candidates in new ways while providing insight into who actually makes these moves. (For example, while a board-wide vote is held, the decision seems to ultimately rest with deputy editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury.) But the tangible result of this endeavor was that it laid bare how ineffective and broken the editorial board actually is — a public service in transparency, at any rate. 

As a piece of documentary television, the episode is frustratingly oblique and noncommittal. The full transcripts of the interviews with the candidates are available online, of course, but each lasts only a few minutes onscreen. (Some, like Pete Buttigieg, clearly get more screen time than others, like Bernie Sanders.) And in almost every scene of deliberation, the members of the editorial staff show their asses. James Bennet, the editor in charge of the Opinion section, begins his appraisal of Amy Klobuchar with, “Even though she’s anemic in the polls,” and continues to explain why he likes her when he could’ve just stopped after that preface (his brother Michael is also running for president). The questions are mostly softball, from whether Klobuchar uses an Alexa at home to what it’s like for Buttigieg to be the first openly gay candidate for president. The most interesting bits made the rounds on Twitter before the broadcast, like economics writer Binyamin Appelbaum questioning Buttigieg about his time working for McKinsey, responding to his denials with hilarious deadpan. Or Sanders admitting to his disinterest in traditional political gladhanding, and the board’s consternation in response.

Kingsbury later defends their dual endorsement of Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren by saying, “We made this choice because we really believe in it,” seemingly asking us to ignore that they picked two people. On the surface, it’s easy enough to be irritated by the forced spectacle, and many have rightfully compared it to a Trumpian reality TV approach. Fair enough, because I’d honestly rather watch old episodes of The Apprentice. But perhaps the most unintentionally striking moment comes early on, as Kingsbury describes the distinction between what the New York Times newsroom does and what the editorial board does. The newsroom, she says, gathers facts and tells a story based on those facts. The editorial board, on the other hand, is aspirational in her eyes. “We take those facts and describe the world as it should be,” she says with a hint of pride in her voice. 

From The Weekly

This is the delusion at the heart of the New York Times in the current moment, which is inevitably made manifest most compellingly in the Opinion pages. Yet this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what an exercise like endorsement could potentially be, because it presupposes that they are soothsayers with the country’s best interests in mind. In truth, they are disconnected from lived reality and focused on a bourgeois status quo they all participate in. In their discussion of Warren, the primary concern is that she condescends to some voters. Somehow they lack the self-awareness to see their own haughtiness. 

This act of supposed transparency cannot reveal the truth about the editorial board, which is that it does not serve the American people. It serves the political and executive classes, the elite whom Trump repeatedly rails against to great success precisely because these supercilious institutions refuse to acknowledge their parasitic relationship to the existing societal conditions. Perhaps the saddest and most clarifying thing about the ordeal is that the Weekly episode was watched by fewer people than an A&E broadcast of American Sniper.

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Jake Pitre

Jake Pitre is a writer and PhD candidate at Concordia University. His work has appeared in Pitchfork, the Globe and Mail, Catapult,...

19 replies on “The New York Times’s Embarrassing Presidential Endorsement Reality Show”

  1. The NYT and WaPo are the flagship propaganda outlets for the deep state. All corporate media spoon feeds American a daily diet of lies and fabrications, half-truths, and misrepresentations.

    The DNC is stacking the deck against Bernie (again, because that worked so well in 2016). The media is executing a full court press against Sanders because he represents the people (wtf?) instead of pandering half-baked vaporous platitudes.

    In other words, no news here.

    1. They aren’t spoon-feeding this particular American a diet of lies. I support Warren, as do many people I know, and btw, the “deep state” is a fabrication of the Trumpers.

        1. You might have taken the time to notice that I didn’t say that there was no ruling class, that we’re all equal, and that everything is transparent.
          I said none of those things.
          But your need to be angry and spit at me got in the way of actually reading what I said and just responding to that.
          Feel free to think that the NYT only tell lies–except that sounds so much like what Trump claims all the time. Odd.

  2. Very slick of you to use an image of Bernie looking as if he’s listening (which he never does) and then one of Buttegeig.
    God forbid you would show an image of Warren who, despite your misgivings about their video of them coming to their decision, still ended with a NYT endorsement.
    A not very subtle way to show who you/Hyperallergic is endorsing.
    And yet another way to undermine the fact that Warren has a lot of well-deserved support.

      1. Were the candidates engaging in “small talk” during the Dem debates four years ago when he constantly interrupted Clinton? I wouldn’t think that would be considered chatting over the water cooler.

    1. Yes, the 9 year old transgenders are lining up to choose the next Secretary of Education for Hiawatha Warren! (As far as I know the 9 year old transgenders are the only group that is growing for Goober Warren.)
      Did it bother you that she LIED about not being hired because she was “visibly” pregnant?
      (My mother got a contract to teach 5th grade when she was “visibly” pregnant back in the 1950s; how could a “sharpie” like Warren have her problem 30 years later, when my mother didn’t have that problem in the 1950s?)
      Did it bother you that she LIED about having her children in public school?
      Does it bother you that she LIED about her economic programs being viable?
      Did it bother you that she LIED about being a native American to get her job at Harvard?
      Does it bother you that a “Harvard professor” actually says, “I’m gonna get me a beer” in her best effort to drop her “g’s.”
      Does it bother you that she chugs beer out of a bottle?
      Does it bother you that she “dances” by swinging her floppy old arms around in a badly fitting sweater?
      Does it bother you that she is as confused as an dimwitted substitute teacher?
      Do you wonder WHY she is failing nationally? Do you think her LIES are more than most folks can choke down?

      1. Oooh that’s some ugly talk….how she drinks beer? “floppy old arms”?
        FYI, I drink, or if you prefer, “chug” beer out of a bottle.
        And I use “gonna,” like most people I know, and I’ve never heard that using “going” is what gets you elected or not.
        The rest of your questions and language I will ignore, as worth ignoring.
        And I wonder why you’re so incredibly furious at her–or at me, for that matter, for expressing an opinion about the article.
        Over and out.

  3. I was thrilled that the Times endorsed Warren and Klobuchar ! I saw the story at midnight and could not get to sleep I was so excited I woke my husband to tell him. not usual. Bernie is fantastic as well, he has so many creative ideas and a great foreign policy. I am sorry Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are gone, but meanwhile the national conversation has been enormously enriched by getting great ideas out there… the intelligence of all the candidates. After being disillusioned in 2016 by the DNC I have to give them credit for nurturing many excellent choices. I hope some of the progressive ideas make it into reality. There is too much money in politics, we have to regulate big industries and stop throwing so much money away on foreign military adventures.

    1. Too much money in politics? Yet Bloomberg and Soros have dedicated MILLIONS to stifle the voices of the American people (and beat them with metal rods if they dare to leave their houses during an Antifa “night of the living dead” rally?

  4. I haven’t generally consumed the New York Times since 1981, when they were denouncing homeless people for hanging out in Columbus Circle. There is enough in the world to make one angry, and I turned away forever. As for the haughtiness, I guess that is precisely what their fans desire and imbibe: eau de bourgeoisie. So I did not watch the endorsement show generally; but then one of my friends cried, ‘You must, must, must watch the Sanders interview,’ which was available on my computer, so I did, and, indeed, it was extremely funny. Not Sanders; he was just himself, an old-time New Deal Democrat, who now looks revolutionary in the shambles and decay of our politics, a sort of last man standing. No, it was the faces and gestures of his audience, who looked as if they had billiard balls rolling around inside their heads. They were really disturbed! Don’t know what the other interviews were like, but the Sanders episode was not to be missed.

  5. Yes, agree completely. I don’t watch The Weekly, but I did read the interviews with all the candidates leading up to the endorsement announcement. I was very surprised and frankly disappointed to see that after all the build up, they hadn’t made a decision at all, but instead awarded the prize to two candidates.

  6. We’re having the anyone-but-Bernie race and the anyone-but-Bernie debates; why not the anyone-but-Bernie endorsement?

    And that right there is all the endorsement I need.

  7. We’re having the anyone-but-Bernie race, and the anyone-but-Bernie debates; why not the anyone-but-Bernie endorsement?

    And that right there is all the endorsement I need.

  8. Yes, the Times show to hype their brand is disingenuous since there are three dozen Democratic nomination debates all year and the candidates are in front of the public for ever. The Times have always had a superiority problem. They put a small article on the front page of the website during the 2016 Presidential election that boasted: “Hillary Clinton has a 87% chance of being elected according to our polls”. That ran every day for months before the election hovering between 80 and 89%. I have a feeling they won’t do that again.

    The Times has a series in the travel section where a young man jetted to 52 Places in one year to write about it. People would bombard them with Climate Change comments throughout the year as they blithely ignored them. Rumor has it they had to censor hundreds of comments about that series. They won’t fess up. Why would they? All the News that’s fit to brand.

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