The New York Times announced that Farhad Manjoo, who writes commentary about tech for the newspaper, will be writing commentary about tech for a different section of the newspaper—on the far side of the wall that separates the news and opinion departments, out in the soft, green pastures where the official Opinion Columnists burp up and chew their opinion-cuds. Manjoo, the memo from Opinion leadership read, “will be joining our growing team of experts on technology, including Kara Swisher, Susan Fowler Rigetti, Sarah Jeong and Alex Kingsbury.”
Oh, yes, the opinion section has been hiring a lot of technology commenters, hasn’t it? Yet when you click “Columnists” on the web site, none of those names appear. People got annoyed about Kara Swisher’s column over the weekend, but the alphabetical drop-down menu ends at “Bret Stephens.”
And wouldn’t the notorious writer of New York Times columns Bari Weiss go after Stephens, alphabetically?
Who makes it onto the menu? Is Kara Swisher a New York Times columnist? If you go to nytimes dot com slash column slash kara hyphen swisher, you get a picture of the writer peering over her glasses and a collection of published column-length articles, at a rate of not quite one a week. But Swisher is not an Opinion Columnist, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy wrote in response to questions about columnist status; she is a Contributor.
And Weiss is not on the menu, Murphy wrote, because she is an Op-Ed staff editor who “sometimes writes about culture and politics.” (And how!)
(Jeong, who was the target of a fake outrage campaign that tried to get her fired for old tweets when she joined the Times, is a member of the editorial board and has not written anything under her own byline—though Bret Stephens did get a column out of her experience, in which he called her tweets “racist.” Rigetti and Kingsbury are editors.)
Beware of false signals, like Swisher’s URL. The “column/[NAME]” structure is applied to contributors and columnists alike, so the author pages for Roxane Gay (a contributor) and Ross Douthat (a Columnist) are on equal footing in the browser bar. Editorial Board members who write occasional columns under their own name are filed under “nytimes.com/by/[NAME]” instead.
So how can you tell (besides clicking the drop-down menu) which people who write columns for the New York Times opinion section are New York Times Opinion Columnists? Consult this handy graphic:
Remember that some of these tests can be hard to see. Michelle Alexander, who is first on the alphabetical columnist menu, has only written a one column per month since she joined the Times, but that is because she has been on book leave.
And Manjoo? When I first asked him, he was unsure whether he was going to be on the drop-down menu or not. But the Times’ Murphy confirmed that he will be, as a full-fledged Opinion Columnist. I wrote Manjoo to tell him so.
“I’d honestly wondered about this but was afraid to ask,” he wrote back.