MEME GIRL: Taylor Lorenz Unites New York Times, Washington Post in Opposition to 'Cringey' Influencer Journalism

She's sorry that people are so jealous of her. But she can't help that she's popular.

March 3, 2022

Taylor Lorenz is causing drama again. The teen lifestyle and Chinese spyware reporter who left the New York Times last month for a gig at the rival Washington Post lashed out at her former employer for failing to address the needs of so-called influencer journalists like herself.

"When you think about the future of media, it's much more distributed and about personalities," Lorenz told Business Insider in an article about the Times's efforts to retain young journalists who are increasingly focused on cultivating a personal brand. "Younger people recognize the power of having their own brand and audience, and the longer you stay at a job that restricts you from outside opportunities, the less relevant your brand becomes."

Lorenz, 37, author of the forthcoming book Extremely Online: Gen Z, the Rise of Influencers, and the Creation of a New American Dream, is the nation's preeminent chronicler of tween memes. She is perhaps best known for attending an internet celeb's 16th birthday party and for being one of the only adult journalists to cover the "TikTokalypse" of July 2020.

"I'm the most online reporter that you can find," she told Vanity Fair in an interview about her decision to leave the Times, which she described as an "incredible institution" that has nonetheless "struggled to figure out how they deal with talent" such as herself. For example, Lorenz knocked the paper for failing to fully appreciate her ability to "use the internet as a modern internet person," whatever that means.

Lorenz's current and former colleagues appeared to find her comments in the Business Insider article rather vexing, especially her suggestion that journalists are basically influencers who should prioritize their personal "brand" above all else. "Will never not be cringey to earnestly refer to 'your brand,'" Jacqueline Alemany, a congressional correspondent for the Post, tweeted in response.

Several journalists at the Times, including investigative reporter Nick Confessore, retweeted Alemany's take on the "cringey" comments. So did a number of journalists at the Post, including chief fact checker Glenn Kessler. The tweet was "liked," meaning endorsed, by dozens of mainstream journalists, including at least 10 current Times and Post employees.

One knowledgeable observer suggested that the apparent unity among journalists at the country's two most prominent publications—in opposition to Lorenz's "cringey" remarks—could prove "monumental" in terms of easing the "Cold War-like tension" between the competing papers.

Most notably, Times reporter Maggie Haberman promoted the tweet to her 1.7 million followers. The Daily Beast reported in May 2021 that Lorenz and Haberman were involved in some heated workplace drama at the Times. Multiple sources described a conversation between the two journalists that devolved into a "blow-up," after which Lorenz made a series of disparaging remarks about Haberman in the Times Slack channels.

The argument was reportedly about Lorenz's incessant coverage of Claudia Conway, the 15-year-old daughter of then-White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. Lorenz complained to colleagues that Haberman was being a "bitch" for questioning her obsession with the teenager's social media posts. She disputed the Daily Beast's reporting, accused her colleagues of "trying to sow controversy and instigate acrimony when there is none," and complained that "people try to make me as the main character of every story about the New York Times." Lorenz has repeatedly suggested that her critics are "obsessed" with her.

It's certainly true that Lorenz is one of the most polarizing figures in modern journalism. Some people like her, including a number of grown-ups. Many others, including former journalist Dan Foster, have argued Lorenz is "literally worse than [Vladimir] Putin," the Russian strongman whose military forces recently launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, slaughtering an untold number of civilians in the process.

The Washington Free Beacon will continue to follow this developing story.