In a wide-ranging interview with Longform’s Max Linsky, legendary reporter Gay Talese said The New York Times “is a much better paper than when I worked for it.” And that’s about how positive it gets. “It doesn’t have the antigovernment tone that I want,” Talese says. He continues:
If I was editor, I would get people after Obama. I voted for the guy, but he’s a disaster as a president. And a disaster most through his Justice Department and muzzling the press. Succeeding. And nobody’s — there’s no Salisbury, Halberstam to bust ass in Washington anymore. That Washington bureau is a wimpy place right now and has been since Obama’s election, or since 9/11 actually. The press, when it comes to contending with government and censorship or the maneuvering that government has done because of the 9/11 and the Iraq War and allowing its reporters to be embedded with American troops. And the Times allowed that. That was a disgraceful thing. When you allow a journalist to ride in a tank that is owned by the Defense Department, you become a flunky of the Defense Department. You become identified with the troops that are saving your ass in Iraq.
Correction: This piece originally said Talese said “there’s no Sulzberger, Halberstam to bust ass in Washington anymore.” He in fact said there was no Salisbury, Halberstam to bust ass in Washington anymore.