Thursday, July 28, 2016

Is the New York Times Biased?

Is the New York Times biased?

A recent article by the paper’s Public Editor suggests that it is. Or, at least, that the public perceives it to be a daily version of The New Republic.

Public Editor Liz Spayd suggests, first, that the perception is so ingrained that the paper’s editors and reports do not see it. And second, that it is costing the paper its readers, its revenue and its position as the paper of record.

In fact, other great national papers, like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are doing a better job at presenting the news fairly and objectively. As Noam Chomsky once said, at least with the Wall Street Journal you can trust the facts.

Presenting the facts is a newspaper’s primary purpose. Get it wrong and you are headed toward irrelevance. So, Spayd is quite right to raise the alarm… though she is hardly the first.

Spayd begins her article with some letters to the editors:

It comes via the inbox to the public editor, from people like Gary Taustine of Manhattan, who writes: “The NY Times is alienating its independent and open-minded readers, and in doing so, limiting the reach of their message and its possible influence.”

One reader from California who asked not to be named believes Times reporters and editors are trying to sway public opinion toward their own beliefs. “I never thought I’d see the day when I, as a liberal, would start getting so frustrated with the one-sided reporting that I would start hopping over to the Fox News webpage to read an article and get the rest of the story that the NYT refused to publish,” she says.

As it happens, editors have seen so many of these letters that they have become numbed to them:

Emails like these stream into this office every day. A perception that The Times is biased prompts some of the most frequent complaints from readers. Only they arrive so frequently, and have for so long, that the objections no longer land with much heft.

Like the tiresome bore at a party, I went around asking several journalists in the newsroom about these claims that The Times sways to the left. Mostly I was met with a roll of the eyes. All sides hate us, they said. We’re tough on everyone. That’s nothing new here.

That response may be tempting, but unless the strategy is to become The New Republic gone daily, this perception by many readers strikes me as poison. A paper whose journalism appeals to only half the country has a dangerously severed public mission. And a news organization trying to survive off revenue from readers shouldn’t erase American conservatives from its list of prospects.

Fair enough, Spayd does not address the substance of the criticism: Is the paper really biased? She addresses the perception of bias, leaving the larger issue for another day.

She examines reader comments, most of which are written by liberals. In truth, the Times makes an effort to highlight some conservative comments, but there are precious few of them. This tells us that the paper has lost conservative and even independent readers. This is, of course, bad for business:

How about all the reader comments attached to political articles? On most days, conservatives occupy just a few back-row seats in this giant liberal echo chamber, not because Republicans are screened out by editors but because they don’t show up in the first place. Bassey Etim, who oversees the comments forum, makes a point of salting conservative voices into the week’s list of top commenters. “It just makes the conversation more dynamic and interesting,” he says.

For whatever reason most Times readers are liberal. They view a liberal slant as objective reporting. One notes that those who seek out more objective reporting normally gravitate to the business press.

Among the most egregious instances of political bias was the placement of an editorial on gun control on the paper’s front page after the San Bernardino terrorist attack. True enough, the article was clearly labelled an editorial, but most readers believe that such commentary has no place on the front page of a newspaper. It was the first such editorial in nearly a century.

At a time when gun control is an important political issue, when the president and the new Democratic presidential nominee have been using it to deflect attention away from their own responsibility for counterterrorism strategy and their own failure to rally the nation against Islamist terrorism, the Times looked like it was promoting Democratic Party propaganda. And that it was taking advantage of its readers normal tendency to see front page articles as news reporting.

Spayd writes:

For some print readers, the placement of an editorial calling for gun control on the front page last December, which garnered a record number of comments, was shrill proof of the kind of Times bias they expect. There was a torrent of debate over the appropriateness of its placement.

Of course, this does not mean that stories are all reported unfairly or subjectively, with a liberal bias. It does suggest that those who believe that the Times is attempting to use its news articles to influence opinion, to promote an agenda, are not seeing things.


David Foster said...

Working title for blog post I'm going to do one of these days:

Germany's Governing Elites: Still Crazy After All These Years?

Dennis said...



Interestingly, this type of collusion would be roundly criticized by the media, if not prosecuted, if done by almost any business or organization.

I suspect this why much of the media reporting sounds like a one person echo chamber with a democrat operative adding their own byline.

There was a time when I took a red pencil to the paper marking words and phrases that were meant to incite rather than inform, clear lifts from other papers sometimes without attribution, and pure examples of dissembling or stretching the truth. I stopped after a while because my newspaper was so full of red lines that it became hard to discern whether it was bias or poor writing much less difficult to re-read. Try it. Nothing is more informative than analyzing m
newspapers' front page.

I would bet that if you asked these news reporters and journalists what their job is the answer would NOT be providing the reader with objective news reporting. It should not surprise one if the number one answer is to save the world or some other idea that should be left up to an informed citizenry.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"A paper whose journalism appeals to only half the country has a dangerously severed public mission."

Liz Spayd is wrong here, and it's because of a perception that is one of the great myths we have in this country: a 50-50 ideological split, like this is two football teams lining up or something. In the 2015 Gallup poll, only 24% of Americans identified as liberal. For the Public Editor of the "paper of record," I'd expect she could do math. She also came from Columbia Journalism Review, and the pretense of Columbia's superior journalism school (with monolithically liberal professors) is another problem. Suffice to say the problem she betrays here is that she honestly thinks half the country is liberal, and that's off by a factor of more than 100%. That's why the NYT is financially going down the drain... they are convinced of their own magnificence, and that better people translate into better/more dollars. That is incorrect. And there's a word for that: hubris.

"Presenting the facts is a newspaper’s primary purpose."

It seems that it is not. At least not at the New York Times. The paper is nakedly a political communications instrument, not unlike Pravda. Pravda represented a monopoly political party. NYT represents an entire ideology -- mischievous and calculating. That's why they plant an editorial on the front page -- their own sense of self-importance, and seizing a pivotal moment in an ideological struggle to prevent firearm purchases. Yet the moment wasn't pivotal. They overplayed their hand, and cynically viewing it as an opportunity: the vergence of terrorism with private gun ownership. Typical. That is the real problem with the NYT: hubris. The reason why the people in the newsroom roll their eyes at the moniker of liberal is because the response is "duh" -- it has nothing to do with "We're tough on everyone." That's pure rubbish, and it's the NYT's monolithic internal thinking that perpetuates that dogma and snobbery.

"For whatever reason most Times readers are liberal. They view a liberal slant as objective reporting."

Because New York is liberal. And I disagree their readers view the NYT as "objective." It's much worse than that... they view it as the Truth. Objectivity went out the window a long time ago.

The New York Times is the daily missal for the American Leftist faithful. With each passing day the paper is becoming more of a caricature of itself, and more irrelevant. No bother. They're protecting and perpetuating a brand image that is vastly more valuable in perception than it is in monetary value. They've been living off that brand for so long, and the confidence in "All the news that's fit to print" is eroding fast. They want raving fans, not readers. They gave up on the readers a long time ago. They want true believers. Again, hubris.

Finally, the problem of the New York Times is a reflection of the problem in journalism itself. Few believe or trust the profession anymore, so they're taking the easy route, increasingly being more like Sports Illustrated, just as the TV news is starting to look more like ESPN College Game Day. Journalists are, in the main, the most lazy professionals in America. They get messages from the politicians, turn around, and speak into the camera or type into their computer. That's why Ben Rhodes has such contempt for them: they don't do their homework. They reflect their monolithic ideology across most of the mainstream outlets: liberal, liberal, liberal. Journalism today isn't about facts and information, it's about who's up, who's down, who's cool, who's out, who's gonna win, and who's gonna lose. Again, it's Sports Illustrated and ESPN. The NYT is trying to follow a trend. And they're losing. Big time.

Anonymous said...

"She examines reader comments, most of which are written by liberals. In truth, the Times makes an effort to highlight some conservative comments, but there are precious few of them."

Actually they are censored. I gave up commenting because NYT always nixed my views.

Farm Boy said...

I used to have an NYT subscription and read it daily. That was about 15 years ago. Since they went hard extremist left, I barely cruise past their webpage. I would pay 50 cents for a lifetime subscription. When I make my rare visit, the first thing I see are ads promoting Public Enemy #1 / hilLIARy for president. They long ago stopped being professional journalists and today don't even try to hide their devotion to the democrat national / clinton crime syndicate. The DNC and clinton crime syndicate are one in the same; the NYT and the rest of the old, dying lamestream media is their propaganda wing.

Farm Boy said...

would NOT pay 50 cents.... sorry, I am not the world's greatest editor and write too fast for my own good

Dennis said...

Farm Boy,

Man can I relate to being a terrible editor. I am not sure if we just don't see what we think we wrote and miss the errors. I had to teach a quick course on statistics, statistical process control and the use of P charts to Inventory Control officers. I wrote a small course book on the subject. Must have read through a thousand times. I had it printed and read through it a last time and behold I find a paragraph that I am not sure why I wrote it.
I feel the same way about the democrat party of which I was a member for an extended period of time. The drift to the Left I suspect mirrors the NYTimes drift to the left as well. The last time I looked it was losing money and readership. "Punch" and Pinch" always were of questionable behavior when it came to politics. Junior has a reputation as a radical Leftist.
I would posit that the same reason we fail to see our own editing errors is why most leftists, NYTimes, do not recognize their own politics and make the excuse about reflecting the Urban reader's views. Ergo why I think of the NYTimes as a view paper.

Sam L. said...

Is it? Yes. Proud of it? Yes. Tops my "Untrustworthy list"? Yes.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This is a Fox News Alert!... the Public Editor of the New York Times is concerned about liberal bias.

There's a Fox News Alert almost every day of "Special Report"... Bret Baier has become a wannabe ESPN analyst. If every day is an alert, no day has alertness... kind of like TSA/Homeland Security's perpetual threat level "orange" terror status, a needle which seemingly never, ever moves.

I used to really like Bret Baier, thinking him very much in touch with the real world. Then he served as a conduit for the establishment's hit squad, posing that planted "pledge" question targeting Donald Trump at the first Republican debate in August. After that, I started to become skeptical of his thinking, bearing and intentions. There's been a chain of events and incidents -- both innocuous and substantial -- that have shown him to be inside the tractor beam of the District of Columbia's way and manner of thinking. He has his moments, but the trajectory seems inevitable... Bret Baier will be a mainstream journalist, seeking to be a key man, information transfer station and infuence-peddler. Is t that what we all want?

How does one resist temptation? Virtue.