New York Times publisher sends personal appeal to those who canceled over Bret Stephens

New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is making a personal appeal to subscribers who canceled because the paper hired Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist who has questioned some of the science behind the theory of climate change and the dangers it poses.

In an email sent Friday afternoon and obtained by POLITICO, Sulzberger addresses subscribers who specifically mentioned the hiring of Stephens as a reason why they ended their subscriptions.

“Our customer care team shared with me that your reason for unsubscribing from The New York Times included our decision to hire Bret Stephens as an Opinion columnist. I wanted to provide a bit more context,” the email begins.

Stephens, who left the Wall Street Journal to join the Times, is also well known as a Pulitzer-prize winning conservative writer who has written strongly against President Donald Trump, often engaging in public battles during the campaign with the likes of Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. His first column for the Times last month argued that climate data creates the misleading impression that we know what global warming’s impact will be, leading to reader complaints, some canceled subscriptions and a public editor column.

In the letter to former subscribers, Sulzberger says it’s important to underscore that the newsroom functions separately from the opinion department, and that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet “has sharply expanded the team of reporters and editors who cover climate change.”

“No subject is more vital,” Sulzberger said.

Sulzberger then lists several articles about climate change, including a photo essay about rising waters threatening China’s cities; environmental rules, regulations and other policies rolled back during Trump’s first 100 days in office; and a recent issue of the Sunday magazine dedicated to the climate’s future.

“This journalism is unrivaled in its sophistication and imagination,” Sulzberger wrote. “The support of our subscribers is what allows us to pursue such ambitious stories all over the globe. I encourage you to sign up for a free newsletter from our climate desk to discover future stories and insights.

“Meanwhile, The Times’s Opinion pages remain an independent and unblinking forum for debate from a wide range of viewpoints among open-minded, informed writers and readers. I don’t think, in these polarizing and partisan times, there’s anything quite like it in American journalism.”

Sulzberger wrote that with so many people “talking past each other about how best to address climate change” putting different points of view on the same page will hopefully help advance solutions.

“Our editorial page editor, James Bennet, and I believe that this kind of debate, by challenging our assumptions and forcing us to think harder about our positions, sharpens all our work and benefits our readers,” he wrote. “This does not mean that The Times will publish any commentary. Some points of view are not welcome, including those promoting prejudice or denying basic truths about our world. But it does mean that, in the coming years, we aim to further enrich the quality of our debate with other honest and intelligent voices, including some currently underrepresented in our pages. If you continue to read The Times, you will encounter such voices — not just as contributors, but as new staff columnists.”

A New York Times spokesperson said in an email that the letter was sent to those who canceled citing the new op-ed columnist and opted into receiving messages from The Times. The spokesperson said less than 6 percent of people who canceled their subscriptions to The Times since Stephens’ hire was announced in April cited the hire or the new column as the reason for the cancellation.

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