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NYT writer in trouble for writing humorous piece about feminist thought-criminal Gay Talese

April 12, 2016

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Talese: On the feminist most-wanted list


Over at the New York Times. staff writer Sridhar Pappu is in hot water with his own editor over his April 1 piece about the Twitter roasting that poor Talese got when he answered “None” at a writers’ conference to a question asked by a female poet about which female writers inspired him.

The feministically correct response was to rattle off a list of female names that preferably doesn’t include the name “Ayn Rand”–all while pulling a Long and Serious Face.

But the 84-year-old Talese,a panelist at he conference, instead responded:

“I’d say Mary McCarthy was one. Of my generation … None. I’ll tell you why. I think women, educated women, writerly women don’t want to—or do not feel comfortable dealing with strangers, or people that I’m attracted to, sort of offbeat characters. I didn’t know any women journalists that I loved.”

Uh-oh! Didn’t Talese, with his decades of reporting experience, realize that it’s a mistake to give an honest answer to a question like that? Speaking truth to feminist power will cost you.

Here’s what happened, according to Slate’s very Talese-unsympatico L.V. Anderson:

“The male moderators of the conversation failed to ask Talese to clarify or justify his statement, and several audience members walked out, stunned that a journalist of Talese’s caliber could be not only so ignorant of women’s writing but also stupid enough to admit it in public. Later, Talese told the Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung, ‘I misunderstood the question’—he thought he was being asked which female writers inspired him when he was a young man. (Talese is 84.) But the manner in which Talese had brushed aside ‘educated women’ (including Joan Didion, who he said ‘doesn’t deal with antisocial people’) left plenty of doubt about his intentions.”


But at any rate Pappu apparently decided to have some tongue-in-cheek fun himself with the Twitter IED’s that followed, so he reported:

“’In many ways Gay Talese is a revolutionary, in others he’s an 84 yo guy from NJ,’ one tweet said. And this: ‘This keynote just became a case study in the deep thread of chauvinism that still runs through journalism.’ The hashtag #womengaytaleseshouldread sprang up. Under this heading the longtime New Yorker writer Susan Orlean tweeted: ‘Lillian Ross. Joan Didion. Janet Malcolm. Jane Kramer. I’m just getting started here, folks.’”

Pappu also interviewed Talese, who complained that actually he and Hannah-Jones had gotten along fine during the luncheon, and that he had even posed for a photo for her:

“A tweet that got under his skin was posted by a fellow keynote speaker at the conference, Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter who covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine: ‘It is inevitable: Your icons will *always* disappoint you.’

“Mr. Talese said, ‘That’s the one that truly hurt me.’ He added: ‘I’d like to talk to her sometime. Why did she have to ask for a selfie after what I said made her so upset? I want to know why.

“’They said people walked out. Why didn’t she walk out? And she’s a person of great personal achievement. She’s a serious journalist, and I respect her. How could she be so duplicitous as to write me off with a quote?'”

No sooner did Pappu’s story run than NYT editor-in-chief Dean Baquet issued a denunciation, calling his reporter’s story “flawed” and a “clumsy” handling of race and gender issues:

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen



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