Thomas Friedman is an embarrassment: New York Times reporters

In a report commissioned by New York Observer editor Ken Kurson, more than two dozen New York Times reporters, past and present, have spoken out about the internal rebellion in the NYT editorial page section.

Renowned columnist Thomas Friedman and editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal have received the most criticism, with some reporters going as far as to call Friedman "an embarrassment."

The report goes on to say:

The New York Observer has learned over the course of interviews with more than two-dozen current and former Times staffers that the situation has "reached the boiling point" in the words of one current Times reporter. Only two people interviewed for this story agreed to be identified, given the fears of retaliation by someone they criticize as petty and vindictive (Rosenthal).

Thomas Friedman, who writes a twice-weekly column for the NYT on world affairs, comes in for a lot of unexpected criticism, with the Observer reporter finding that accounts tend to come back to the columnist's perceived ineptitude:

I mean anybody who knows anything about most of what [Friedman is] writing about understands that he’s, like, literally mailing it in from wherever he is on the globe. He's a travel reporter. A joke. The guy gets $75,000 for speeches and probably charges the paper for his first-class airfare.

In Friedman's book, The World is Flat, the author recounted a journey to Bangalore, India, when he realised globalisation has changed core economic concepts. Friedman used many examples of companies based in India that, by providing labor from typists and call center operators to accountants and computer programmers, became integral parts of complex global supply chains for companies such as Dell, AOL, and Microsoft. Post the book's launch, Friedman's popularity in the country soared, and the author has often visited, whether it be for a climate change summit or for a literature festival.

Thomas Friedman. Reuters image

Thomas Friedman. Reuters image

However, Friedman has been lacerated in many online and media forums for a lack of coherence, questionable economics and baffling logic. A Slate article went as far as to say: "If I had to pick just a single fact that most powerfully reflects the nature of America’s political and media class in order to explain the cause of the nation’s imperial decline, it would be that, in those classes, Tom Friedman is the country’s most influential and most decorated “foreign policy expert.”

In particular, his views on Syria and Iraq have been singled out for being "the most viscerally repellent comments anyone with a large mainstream platform has spouted in the last decade." Friedman has been particularly criticised in articles on the Gawker website (a sample column headline: 'Tom Friedman Travels the World to Find Incredibly Uninteresting Platitudes').

And according to the Observer report, NYT reporters are not exactly disagreeing. "Tom Friedman is an embarrassment. I mean there are multiple blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter feeds that exist solely to make fun of his sort of blowhardy bullshit," one Times reporter told the Observer.

As the long-form article continues, it becomes clear that Friedman has become a symbol for NYT employees of the laziness and nepotism present within the leadership of the NYT editorial page.

Read the full article here.


Updated Date: Feb 07, 2014 17:11 PM

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