The New York Times represents a special case in the spiraling loss of credibility among the American mainstream media. For generations now, it has been the dominant newspaper in America; the most well-known and the most influential. It’s motto is “All the news that’s fit to print.”
But it also has been a leader in the leftward lurch in journalism, which has now turned into a full-throttle rout of any remnants of fair and objective reporting. The Times has made itself into a thought-leader of the American progressive movement and an overt propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. It drips with unmistakeable partisanship.
It’s motto more accurately now might be: “All the progressive news we can find, and some we just make up.”
In recent months the New York Times has been infested by several major errors that were so obviously egregious that the newspaper was forced to make corrections — albeit in as hidden a way as possible. (Nobody likes to admit they’re wrong, and all the more so to the whole world. But this is supposed to be the most prestigious news organization in the country.)
Here’s a quick look at three recent corrections — largely forced through actual journalism by increasingly invaluable alternative media sources. Note that every “error” hurt Republicans and helped Democrats. That is not a coincidence. These are not honest mistakes. They may not be on purpose, but they reveal a mindset that easily believes whatever damages Republicans and helps Democrats — sometimes without question. Of course, this bleeds into all of it’s journalism, not just errors.
The Times’ unforced errors
For several months, all of the mainstream media, led by the Times and Associate Press, were repeating ad nauseam that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed Russia had meddled in the 2016 election. This became fact on social media and even most conservatives accepted it as true. In June, the Times repeated this “fact” as part of a long “news” screed against Trump’s claims.
But The Daily Caller News Foundation’s fact-checking team had thoroughly exposed the fraud a month earlier. In a surprise to most all news consumers, it was simply not true. Only four intelligence agencies had actually come to that conclusion.
How did this happen? Astonishingly, The Democrat media accepted a Democrat politician’s statement as fact and ran with it without verification. Hillary Clinton used the claim in a presidential debate, and apparently everyone accepted it without even the most basic fact-checking. After almost a year of faulty reporting — including months leading up to the election, which translated into how many votes for Clinton? — the Times was forced into issuing a correction, as did the Associated Press. But it will live on as a fact in social media forever.
On Aug. 8, the Times ran a story under the headline “Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report.” The Times reported very importantly that scientists leaked a copy of the report to them because the scientists were “concerned that it would be suppressed.” The message throughout the story was one of the media’s favorite scary Trump narratives — dangerous Donald Trump might suppress the report.
One problem. The potentially “suppressed” report was made public seven months earlier in January and actually went through a public comment period for three months, during which time anyone could read and comment on it. In fact, at the time of the story and still today, the Internet Archive maintains a copy of the report in its public domain database.
After an immediate outcry, the Times was forced to run a correction the next day, at the bottom of the story, which was edited. But the actual thrust of the story remains. Honest journalism would take it down and redirect to the correction alone. There was no story.
It’s not hard to guess what happened. Activist “scientists” thought it lacked coverage, so they thought that sending it to the Times as a “leak” would gin up negative Trump coverage. Boy would it! This is just conjecture, but unfortunately, quite believable.
After a Democrat activist opened fire on congressional Republicans’ baseball practice in May, the Times used a long-debunked conspiracy theory to attack Sarah Palin in an editorial. As the media and Democrat activists attempted to do right after the shooting of Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011, the editorial linked Palin’s campaign messaging and a map to the shooting of Giffords.
The editorial stated: “Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”
Of course, because we have social media and alternative media sources, there was a huge backlash to the editorial. In fact, at the very time of the shooting it was known that the Palin map was irrelevant because the shooter had been obsessed with Giffords for three years. So the Time issued another correction:
“An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.”
Remember, these are just the most recent and worst factual errors that were publicly caught, not beginning to peal back the ongoing extinguishing of Democrat scandals and exploding of supposed Republican wrongdoings.
Axing their own watchdog
The bias is not hard to see for right-of-center American news consumers.
But now it appears the newspaper itself has all but given up on trying to be fair, accurate, professional and responsive to readers.
The position of public editor was created in 2003 to “investigate matters of journalistic integrity” where the editor would respond to questions of accuracy, fairness and so on after another scandal in the newsroom. The position was “established to receive reader complaints and question Times journalists on how they make decisions.” The Times went through several public editors until eliminating the position in May, four months after the inauguration of President Trump.
Explaining the elimination, Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said in a memo that the public editor’s role was outdated. “Our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be,” he wrote. “Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.”
That falls somewhere between disingenuous and weak gruel. Number one, the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s hardly as though the existence of the public editor marginalized the social media stewards. They surely do not need “empowering.” And number two, none of those social media overseers have the insider view of the newsroom and understanding of the Times that the public editor did. Now the public editor often acted as a defender of the Times’ journalism, but some could be excellent critics with insight only they had. That is gone, and it is gone on purpose.
It seems more likely they eliminated the position because they have no intent to be responsive to all readers — just the ones they are going after, i.e. liberals, Democrats, anti-Trumpers #theresistance.
And here’s the real nugget. The last public editor, Liz Spayd, was actually a pretty fair watcher of the watchdogs and one who refused to tow the company line — in this case, the anti-Trump resistance. Times Editor Dean Baquet called some of her works “bad columns” and “fairly ridiculous.” She in fact was less than a year into her two-year term. The Times could not just fire her for being even-handed, so they dumped the entire position, eliminating the only real pretext of honest and fair journalism.
Result: cratering and curated readership
The results of all this, in which the Times acts as a representative of the journalism integrity problems facing all newspaper, were predictable and are easy to see.
Newspaper circulation nationally peaked in 1973 at 63 million weekday readers, according to Journalism.org, part of the Pew Research Center. The total number of weekday readers as of 2016 was under 35 million. As bad as that sounds, with readership falling nearly in half, it’s actually much worse.
In 1973, the population of the United States was 211 million people. In 2016, it was 323 million people. This means that newspaper “penetration” — the percentage of Americans reading a daily newspaper — nose-dived during that period. In 1973, penetration was 30% — nearly one in three Americans reading newspapers. By 2016, it was less than 11%, just one in 10 Americans.
While the internet and technological revolution certainly impacted newspapers, it’s worth noting that readership was flat during the 80s and into the 90s and was declining through the 90s, when the internet was but a shadow of what it is today — and while the population continued to climb. So clearly it is not all because of technology, which is what many newspaper people insist on believing. Their blindness, much of it intentional, has ruined their industry.
What’s revealing, and is cementing the old guard media’s position as the liberal media for liberal readers, is that virtually no one in the industry can see how their own biases are turning off half of the population — and how that is a definitive part of their decline.
Redefining in the age of Trump
This is doubly so in the era of Trump. The Washington Post unveiled a new slogan recently that is nearly apocalyptic: “Democracy dies in darkness.” Social media users relentlessly mocked the Post for the new slogan. But in the fevered hatred of Trump in American newsrooms, it seemed like a good fit.
As did the Times’ decision to air it’s own apocalyptic commercial during the Academy Awards. “The truth is hard to find. The truth is hard to know. The truth is more important now than ever,” the Times ad states at the end. There is little doubt that they actually think they are the arbiters of telling the truth, despite their overt partisanship, errors and fabrications.
The New York Times has been king of this self-inflicted industry takedown, consistently talking of its high level of journalistic integrity, while acting as a Democrat content-provider.
With cable news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC dumping all journalistic pretense, newspapers had a chance to return to the role of trusted news sources. But the same doctrinaire liberals that occupy virtually all cable news outlets also occupy virtually all newspaper newsrooms. They are the same people with the same worldviews doing the same things, only through a different medium.
This is all a shame. Because a truly fair and balanced media would be of inestimable value to the Republic. That now appears to be a lost cause, thanks solely to the media itself.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.
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