“I came to college eager to debate. I found self-censorship instead.” -New York Times, 3/7/22
Here at the New York Times op-ed desk, we pride ourselves on a long and rich tradition of journalistic integrity and sky-high standards. Well, maybe at some point we had journalistic integrity. These days, we mostly have a long tradition of publishing shit that doesn’t really matter but will make people mad on Twitter.
Look around, the world is in chaos. War and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, a pandemic that has killed 6 million people worldwide, Florida is trying to make it illegal to say the word “gay,” and someone is screaming on The Bachelor.
So naturally, we chose to run an article about the thing with the highest stakes: a college student who is being so censored she has no choice but to write about it in America’s largest newspaper. It’s a tragedy that deserves the attention of our entire nation at this pivotal moment.
The New York Times is not a joke newspaper. We are serious about one thing and one thing only: bringing you the facts. And publishing a bunch of tepid, tired takes that we fully realize will make a lot of people pissed off on Twitter. Would you look at that. It worked! Journalism isn’t dead.
It’s the same strategy and thinking that has given us the courage to publish other marginalized and endangered voices that no other paper would dare lend a voice to. For example, two years ago we published the horrifying injustice of Tom Dever, a 27-month-old from the Upper East Side who was rightly shocked and terrified that he was not allowed to spit up milk all over the E-train.
We publish op-eds that make people think. The essays we publish challenge people’s beliefs of reality with thoughts like “Did I just black out for a second?” Our provocative storytelling changes minds, with readers thinking “Do I really need to renew my New York Times subscription. Maybe The Atlantic is a better idea after all.”
We knew not everyone would agree when we published the heartbreaking account of the kangaroo trainer from Australia who moved to the Netherlands, realized there are no kangaroos in the Netherlands, hated it, and wanted somewhere to complain. A survey of our readers found that the story profoundly impacted their day, with 87 percent saying they spent more than 15 minutes sobbing to their therapist about why a giant newspaper was publishing total garbage and kept rejecting them.
We’re not in the business of making friends. We’re in the business of spitting out half-baked cancel-culture articles with no real merit or backbone that systematically reduce America’s trust in journalism institutions. We’re brave. And no one can silence us. Except ourselves.
Check back next week for a groundbreaking piece by a ghost from 1887 who doesn’t understand traffic lights. It won’t enlighten you but it will confuse you. That’s what we’re all about.
Bobbie Armstrong is a former child, current writer and student. Her work has appeared on McSweeney’s, Slackjaw, Belladonna Comedy, Little Old Lady, and her parents’ fridge. Follow her existential crisis @bobbien_