I had just arrived home after having an emotional conversation with a pastor friend when I got the message that The New York Times had just published a lengthy article about the company I work for.
My wife was out having coffee with a friend who had asked for some advice on loneliness, so it was just me and the kids in the house.
“Dad, can we finish this episode before bed?” my oldest asked. She is 13, kind, articulate and mature beyond her years. I am not biased at all.
“Sure,” I said. “I need to read something on my computer anyway.”
I pulled out my laptop and clicked the link to read the story.
“Can we have a snack before we brush our teeth?” my youngest asked. I swear that kid could eat a full-grown bison and then eat a second 10 minutes later.
Paywall. Dang it.
Incognito mode didn’t work and I was impatient, so I signed up for a free trial to The Times and clicked again.
As the executive editor of the conservative publication that was the focus of The Times’ article, I didn’t expect it to be a glowing commendation. But I had hoped it would be a fair and objective portrayal of what we do every day at The Western Journal.
My hope was misplaced.
“OK, dad. The show is over. Should we go to bed?” my oldest asked.
I didn’t answer. I was reading the words on the screen.
Fine-tuned ideological content to an ever-agitated audience.
“Dad, will mom be home soon?”
“Dad, what are you reading?”
Deceptive business practices.
“Dad? Are you OK?”
Alienated, angry conservative users.
Monetizing of digital mobs.
“I’m sorry, kids. Just one more minute,” I said. They could tell I was more distracted than usual — which is no small feat.
News outlet in reverse.
I finished the article, sighed and shut my laptop. All four of my kids were looking at me.
My oldest was, as usual, kneading a glob of homemade slime while standing in the kitchen.
“What did it say, dad?” she asked honestly, wanting to know what the Gray Lady had said about her dad. “Was it good or bad?”
“It wasn’t good,” I answered honestly — maybe too honestly for a young teen that doesn’t really know about politics or journalism.
“They said we are liars. They said we are bad people doing bad things. They said we are deceiving people.”
I was sad but trying hard to not let it show. It didn’t work. It had been a long day. After a long week. After a long year. Work and life in 2019 have been hard, and I wish I could say that my kids hadn’t seen their father cry on the couch in the past few months.
“Do they really believe that?” she asked.
I hesitated before I answered.
Isn’t that the question we all ask when we are attacked? Do they believe that? Does Nick Confessore, one of the authors of the article, really think those things about me and what I do?
Does he disagree politically (he does) and this is simply his method to attack opposition regardless of whether we are trying to be truthful and accurate?
“I don’t know if they believe what they wrote,” I told her. “Sometimes people will do anything to hurt those people they disagree with. But sometimes people just see the world differently.”
Last October, I had eaten lunch with Justin Banks, the co-author of the article, when he interviewed The Western Journal staff and observed our day-to-day operation. Some months after he came to our headquarters in Phoenix but well before the article was published (it took almost 10 months for The Times to finish their piece on us), he messaged me on Twitter and asked if I wanted to grab a drink. I was unable to do so.
After the article was published Wednesday night, he tweeted that I posted “flagrantly false” information and used fake author names. Both statements are inaccurate.
“People sometimes think that if you disagree with them, you are a bad person,” I said to her. “Not everyone who disagrees with you will think that, but some will.”
To be clear, I write my fair share of critical pieces, and I’m sure that some of them could be accurately characterized as less than kind.
But as I looked my daughter in the eyes and tried to explain why The New York Times would write a hit piece about her daddy, I saw something more important than the words I had just read.
I love her more than any political idea. She is neither conservative nor liberal and couldn’t care less about politics. And I would die for her.
“Are you going to be OK?” she asked honestly, concerned that the answer might be in the negative.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m gonna be just fine.”
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