Class Struggle In the News Room

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This piece in the New York Times is worth reading for sheer entertainment value. By Ben Smith, formerly of Buzzfeed, it is headlined “Newsrooms Are in Revolt. The Bosses Are in Their Country Houses.” With this sub-head: “Those who can afford it left the city, shining a spotlight on class divisions in the media.”

The “class division” is between those who can afford to decamp for the luxury of the Hamptons or the Hudson Valley, and those who have to stay in the city and be exposed to COVID-19. And also, I suppose, work. This is how the upper-media-class lives:

[E]xecutives face a summer without tiki-torch-lit pathways leading to raw bar spreads on the beach, catered for tens of thousands of dollars for a few dozen friends. Parents are growing desperate: “With no camps being open, they’re looking for things to do,” said Boomer Jousma, a yacht broker, who has met that need by selling twice as many yachts as usual, including four of the $1 million-plus Vanquish brand in the last two weeks.

There’s also not so much Instagram. Everyone saw what happened when their neighbor, David Geffen, who paid $70 million for his spread on Lily Pond Lane in 2016, posted a picture of a sunset over his $590 million superyacht in late March and shared that he was “isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus,” provoking a wave of public shaming. Out here, they’re being careful to avoid both the disease and the anger seething out of New York City, where much of the working media is both exhausted from covering the story of their lives and in open revolt.

I have a friend who has been asking for the last three months, as the Times has heaped coals on the COVID-hysteria fire, where “Pinch” Sulzburger, Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd are holed up. Smith doesn’t answer the question as to Krugman and Dowd, but he confirms Pinch’s whereabouts, along with those of a number of other “news” personalities:

When the lockdown arrived, most who could get out of New York did so — to the Hamptons for the old elite, to the Hudson Valley for the second tier.

The CNN president, Jeff Zucker, who is also the chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, is in East Hampton, where he is among the caddy-less golfers, as is the Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav. The president of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, is in Hampton Bays. (Fox News’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, is still going into the Sixth Avenue office.) At the embattled magazine company Condé Nast, Roger Lynch, the chief executive, has been in mountainous Lake Arrowhead, outside Los Angeles; the artistic director Anna Wintour is weathering the crisis in Mastic, just west of the Hamptons. Troy Young, the president of Hearst Magazines, is on Shelter Island. A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, is in the Hudson Valley; the executive editor, Dean Baquet, has remained in his Greenwich Village apartment.

Meanwhile, employees who are stuck in the city are fuming.

The big stories are being driven by frontline journalists who have been taking personal risks — and, sometimes, contracting the coronavirus, to cover the dual crises in American cities. So the clearest effect of the exodus has been to highlight internal class divisions, which are boiling over in private Slacks and Zoom chats largely invisible to executives.
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Underlying much of this tension is a sense — in media as in the rest of American society — of just how deep the gaps can be. I felt that sting last week when I saw a tweet from Amber Jamieson raging about rich New Yorkers who fled the coronavirus, leaving behind spacious houses and apartments that would have made for a relatively easy quarantine. “Genuinely hope they feel deep shame their whole lives,” she wrote.

A typically tolerant liberal. #LoveWins!

I have long wondered whether college professors are prone to fall for the idiocies of Marxism because they work in one of the few industries so retrograde that class divisions really do lead to exploitation of labor. On one hand, there are a relative handful of tenured professors and richly-compensated administrators. Beneath them is a proletariat of itinerant lecturers and part-timers, often paid on a piece-work basis, who barely manage to eke out a living going from school to school while rarely managing to achieve any professional distinction. No wonder college professors are among the few who can talk of “class struggle” with a straight face!

Smith’s New York Times article causes me to wonder whether journalism, in its current late stage of devolution, has joined academia as an arena of class struggle, and whether that fact (if it is a fact) helps to explain the weird political beliefs of so many journalists.



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