The structure at traditional outlets is such that they cannot be controversial or take risks.
Once upon a time, you could have controversial, and even horrible white men make it big. They could be racists, sexists, drug addicts, wife beaters, and even plagiarists and law breakers, but if what they wrote was good, the outlet would defend them.
Quinn Norton was a woman whose beats had her covering fringe elements, such as hackers and the Occupy movement, and she looked good on paper to the New York Times, who hired her without vetting her social media feed.
She had dealings with Neo-Nazis, and used slurs on Twitter, and I am surprised they didn’t vet her social media sooner, considering how controversy-averse traditional outlets happen to be. That kind of outsider maverick cannot fit with the mainstream press. They want safe, and Norton was not. I do not know how much of that ideology she believes, though she says she does not, and how much mere tolerance was required to get to the stories she was writing, but to the Times, it didn’t matter: she had dealings with icky people and said icky things online, and she had to go.
Covering that kind of undercurrent alters your perspective, and they won’t let you play unless you follow those rules; the problem is that underground rules are opposite to mainstream rules. She has managed to be published in other mainstream publications, such as The Guardian and Wired, but her luck ran out at the Times.
This is the second time the Times has had a scandal with associating with that kind of element. They honestly have no idea how this Internet thing works.
Norton does know, but she doesn’t fit in the Times’s culture. It is a clash of two ideologies, and when you rise through the ranks of one, many times, when you try to break into the other, you end up being disavowed by both.
Once upon a time, this wouldn’t force her dismissal. There would have been some sort of spin about how she was cultivating sources, and so, give it a rest because we know what we are doing, and you aren’t a journalist.
We are living in different times, however. The Times has tried to bring in brash young blood, and it always backfires for one reason or another.
Because it doesn’t have a pulse on what is happening around it or why.