For a few hours on Wednesday morning, the New York Times editorial board took over the @NYTOpinion Twitter account and urged readers to call senators to oppose the GOP’s tax bill. The “experiment,” as editorial page editor James Bennet called the Twitter takeover, marked an unusual turn toward activism for the editorial board, which is known for arguing its point of view on legislation, not encouraging readers to advocate for it.
In a statement provided to New York, Bennet described the tweets as an extension of the board’s editorials opposing the GOP tax plan: “The Editorial Board has been writing for weeks about concerns over the tax legislation pending in Congress. This was an experiment in using a different platform to get that message out. We emphasized to our audience that this was the position of the Editorial Board in particular, not of Times Opinion generally.”
But Bennet didn’t address the oddity of publishing phone numbers and telling readers what to say when calling their senators. It was a move more classically associated with an activist outfit than a news organization — even if it was from the editorial board.
The board’s “experiment” comes not long after the paper updated its social-media guidelines for those working in the newsroom, which is separate from the editorial board. Under the new rules, journalists are not to “express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.”
The editorial board is presumably outside the jurisdiction of these rules. Still, one imagines that the board’s experiment might bump up against some of the same concerns that prompted the new rules.
And then there’s the minor issue of the editorial board’s argument — that the tax bill is particularly bad for the middle class — not aligning very neatly with the analysis coming out of the newsroom, which says the majority of middle-class families, in the near term at least, will get a tax cut.