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Comments: Week of September 4, 2017

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1. The most recent issue featured an excerpt from Ellen Pao’s upcoming book, Reset, detailing her harassment in the tech world (“This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley,” August 21–September 3). Gesche Haas, an entrepreneur who promotes female-founded ventures, wrote, “Having had personal experience with speaking out publicly on a sexism incident, I know how mind-blowingly difficult this choice is and how conflicting the aftermath can be. Ellen has taken it to a whole new level.” Telle Whitney, CEO and president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, commented, “As a CEO working with women technologists globally, I know that sexual harassment and intimidation happens, but most women choose not to speak up. Those who do often lose everything they hold dear — their jobs and their reputations. Many accept financial packages that don’t allow them to discuss the situation but allow them to get out. Into this world marches Ellen, and her words will have lasting impact. This is courage.” Others saw parallels outside the tech industry. “This article is every woman’s experience, at least every woman I know.” wrote Liberty Heise. Some readers, though, questioned why Pao’s story wasn’t featured more prominently: “Here’s one for the upper left of your Approval Matrix,” wrote Damon Zucca. “New York Magazine publishes a powerful essay by Ellen Pao and can’t be bothered to mention it on the cover of the magazine. A few years from now no one will be talking about Stranger Things, but people will return to Pao’s essay over and over again.”


2. In partnership with ProPublica, New York published Alec MacGillis’s investigation into how “the dismantling of the administrative state” is well under way at Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (“Is Anybody Home at HUD?,” August 21–September 3). Daily Beast contributing writer Jamil Smith suggested that “rather than campaigning for Trump and violating the Hatch Act,
@SecretaryCarson should try doing his fucking job.” Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post tweeted, “There are two ways to destroy a governmental agency: either cut its budget, or put Ben Carson in charge.” On Fox News, Carson responded to the story: “I would say you should ring the doorbell before you conclude that nobody’s at home.” And conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who was featured in the story, wrote, “Secretary Carson did not create the affordable-housing issues that he is trying to solve with unique out-of-the-box thinking that will benefit all Americans, especially the most vulnerable. Instead of speaking with people on both sides of the issues facing HUD, only one perspective was represented. This author should be ashamed of his shoddy work and make every effort moving forward to prove why he’s worthy of the title ‘respected and trusted journalist.’ ” MacGillis responds: “To report this article, I reached out to dozens of HUD employees so I could get as full a picture as possible of what was happening inside the department. Some were willing to speak with me; some were not. I also made repeated requests for an interview with Secretary Carson, which were denied — even when I was with him on his visit to Baltimore and he agreed to give interviews to several other reporters who were along. My request to interview Maren Kasper, the most influential member of the HUD transition team, was also declined by the department. As for what it takes to be a ‘respected and trusted journalist,’ it is worth recalling that Mr. Williams, in his capacity as a political commentator, secretly received $240,000 from George W. Bush’s administration to tout No Child Left Behind on his syndicated television show.”

3. Boris Kachka wrote about what Michiko Kakutani’s departure from the Times means for the future of books (“The End of the Lone-Wolf Critic,” August 21–September 3). The column struck a chord in the literary community. Lydia Kiesling, editor of the Millions, wrote, “Normally pieces about the backstage dealings of august organizations leave you vaguely disgusted with everyone involved (including yourself, for being such a credulous consumer of gossip), but Kachka hit just the right notes: institutional history, cogent analysis of the critical landscape, and good old-fashioned mythmaking. Change is traumatic, but it was nice to read a story with at least a couple of happy endings, including new horizons for Kakutani.” Kachka wrote that “critics now meet with editors to brainstorm new elements and submit their pitches to the will of the collective.” To clarify, a Times spokesperson stressed that critics do still choose which books they’ll review, but they now share their selections early to coordinate coverage.


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