It's even worse than it appears.
Saturday February 6, 2021; 10:47 AM EST
  • Yesterday the NY Times fired Donald McNeil, a reporter I've written about here, in glowing terms, many times. There isn't another reporter in the world that I have so much respect for. He taught me about viruses, in clear language that I understood, that didn't insult my intelligence. In a time where all our lives are threatened by a virus, his reporting and advice was potentially life-saving. #
  • I remember well the first time I heard him interviewed on the Daily podcast. I was driving on the Rhinebeck bridge across the Hudson. I had just heard a WHO press conference where they said the virus had gotten out of control and now was a pandemic. For that moment I felt like we were defenseless, completely at the mercy of the virus. #
  • I didn't know anything about pandemics. Then I listened to McNeil explain how the Chinese were already getting it under control. Testing, isolation, contact tracing. I could see how these three together, efficiently administered, could actually isolate the virus and thus destroy it. Now I knew it wasn't impossible to solve the problem, but it did require us all to work together. #
  • From that point on, every time McNeil wrote something or appeared on the podcast, I stopped everything and read and listened carefully. His reporting is full of information and history, it was more than great reporting. They don't have a prize for this, but they should. Reporting that's useful. In this case very timely and useful, life-saving and useful. A gift. #
  • Yesterday the NY Times fired McNeil. Here's what I understand happened, based on McNeil's statement. He was asked by a group of high school students a question about whether it was okay for a friend of theirs to say a racial slur in a video. In answering the question McNeil himself used the word. This is a word that is used publicly, often as a term of endearment, in a lot of contexts to refer to all kinds of people, and it's not controversial, it's accepted. He didn't aim the racial slur at anyone. Grammatically it was the subject of a sentence, not an adjective. He said the word. And now, many months later he was fired for it. #
  • Maybe this isn't what happened. I'm open to hearing more. But if this is it, the Times should apologize and offer him his old job back. Apparently some reporters will object, and somehow threaten the Times. They should be fired. It's an honor to work at the Times, and if you don't like it, leave. #
  • What the Times did here is disgusting. This isn't the first time I've said the Times is disgusting. I think it virtually every day as they flaunt their conflict of interest re tech, never offer an opposing view to rebut their nonsense. They either naively or corruptly promote stories that put our country in danger, based on lies, just like the ones Fox is being sued for now. These are well-known. The Times doesn't seem to care. #
  • I don't expect the Times will reverse itself. So I hope McNeil lands somewhere where there is a daily podcast he can be interviewed on, and who will sponsor his reporting, which was exceptional, deep, informed by an enormous base of experience, thoughtful and caring. Let's make sure he's still viable as a source of information and encouragement to us. #


Last update: Saturday February 6, 2021; 12:07 PM EST.

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