On Sunday night, after meeting nine candidates for the Democratic nomination for president over the course of several months, the New York Times editorial board gave its rose to two of them. The endorsements of both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar provided a fitting twist to the special episode of The Weekly that turned the process for choosing a candidate into reality TV. The episode, seen widely as an attempt to boost The Weekly’s ratings, didn’t please many critics, and not just because of the board’s indecision.
Here were the problems people had:
The Times turned a serious process into a silly reality TV show
Nine candidates, one prize, loads of drama — for the first time since handing out its first presidential endorsement to Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Times’s process of announcing its pick for the next commander-in-chief drew comparisons to The Apprentice and LeBron James’s “The Decision.” What was billed by Kathleen Kingsbury, the deputy editor of the editorial page, as the “most transparent endorsement process to date” was instead a self-indulgent spectacle that seemed less transparent than performative.
“The promised inside look at how the Times made one of its most ostensibly important decisions of the year turned out to mean viewers spent an hour watching the paper crumble under the weight of its own self-importance,” Ashley Feinberg wrote for Slate.
The whole show was a contrived bit of drama meant to satisfy the demands of a TV show, which meant keeping viewers hooked until the end to find out who the paper would choose. While some took issue with treating an important election with such frivolity, others noted the irony of the Times criticizing Trump’s reality-TV presidency while turning its own endorsement into reality TV. And then there were those, like Dan Rather, who didn’t want to sit through the drama.
When the show delivered on the promise of transparency, it didn’t always reflect well on the editorial board staffers.
And it wasn’t just the content that reflected reality TV. The show was shot like an episode of I Love New York too.
You can’t endorse two people, especially THOSE two
Every good reality show needs a twist, and for the Times’ endorsement special it was selecting two candidates, which was both a cop-out, and given the two candidates selected, a head-scratcher.
Also notable, the two candidates selected were women:
They asked some questionable questions
Each candidate who went before the Times’ editorial board sat for 90 minutes of questioning. The TV version included a few minutes with each, and not all of it was substantive. In Variety, Daniel D’Addario criticized the “softball questions” that were hardly “germane when choosing a candidate.” Among them were questions to Amy Klobuchar about her Alexa, to Andrew Yang about what government secret he wants to learn, and to Pete Buttigieg about the nickname “Mayo Pete.”