New York Times’ D.C. bureau ‘is a wimpy place right now,’ Gay Talese says


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.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • menloman

    The correction points to the problem.

  • markisenberg

    As a Times shareholder and long time reader though not a subscriber now,I agree that the Times is not what it was and yes,it had to change and it may lose the print edition sooner than most think. But,we do need quality journalism and it is one of the few places left to find it on a daily basis even when Maureen Dowd is having one of her frequent off days or the Arts section think it is really on the mark with a Sunday profile of a rock star or a tv review from Alessandra Stanley,an almost challenged tv observer. It used to be that way with its film critics and still is with the theatre critic slot. But without the Times and a long history of Times critics,we would be left with USA Today and the Wall St. Journal. Hotel lobby news and Rupert Murdoch backed business fodder. Judith Miller and Jayson Blair are long gone from the Times. It still has C.J. Chivers and Mr. Kristoff risking their lives to get a story. Good enough for me.