"New journalism" pioneer Gay Talese is now such feminist poison that you can't even write a semi-sympathetic article about him without getting into trouble with the thought police.

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.

Love the "several audience members walked out, stunned." Feminist flowers are so extremely delicate and easily bruised.


According to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Magazine staff writer who delivered the conference’s opening keynote address, Talese interrogated her about how she got her job during a private luncheon. From [Rewire editor Amy] Littlefield’s interview with Hannah-Jones,

“He asked again if I was actually a staff writer. And I said yes,” Hannah-Jones told me by phone on Monday. He asked her how she got hired for that job. “I said they called and offered me a job,” she recalled. “He asked me who hired me, why was I hired?”

Hannah-Jones, who is black, said, “I feel like I’ve been explaining why I’m in a room where apparently people think I’m not supposed to be most of my life, so I know when someone is asking me that question.”

Later, at the end of the luncheon, while Hannah-Jones was talking to another female journalist about which session they would attend next, Talese asked Hannah-Jones if she was going to get her nails done.

Didn't Talese know that asking a woman if she was going to get her nails done is a "microaggression"?

My own take on this third-hand-reported conversation is that Talese was having mischievous fun with the extraordinarily self-righteous Hannah-Jones ("I'm in a room where apparently I'm not supposed to be") 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:

Talese was quoted in our story calling her “duplicitous.” Nikole was not given a chance to respond to that, nor was I.

Hmm, actually Pappu did give Hannah-Jones a chance to respond. His story recounts:

As part of another tweet, Ms. Hannah-Jones posted a photograph of the stylish shoes worn by Mr. Talese, who is a noted fashion plate. In reply to requests for comment, Ms. Hannah-Jones said by email, “Thank you for reaching out, but I’ve said all that I am going to say about this.”

Furthermore, as NYT ombudsman Margaret Sullivan reports, Pappu sent Hannah-Jones a second e-mail giving her a second chance to respond:

An email from the writer of the article to Ms. Hannah-Jones clarifies this point. (It was shared with me by one of Ms. Hannah-Jones’s editors with her agreement.) It said: “I thought I’d try to reach out to you again. As I said in my previous email, I’m writing a piece on Gay Talese and the aftermath of the events in Boston and would really like to get your commentary for it. I have pretty specific things I’d like you to respond to.”

"But, notably, he did not say what those specific things were," scolds Sullivan.

So–let me get this straight: Hannah-Jones refuses to give an interview to one of her own colleagues at the New York Times about the Talese incident, but she's plenty willing to air her thoughts on Twitter and Rewire. And it's Pappu who's in trouble. But that's what happens when you offend the Erinyes who enforce feminism.