Defending the indefensible: Bias at the New York Times

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The New York Times’ media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, penned a recent piece suggesting that biased news coverage of Donald Trump, at the Times and among other mainstream media, is justified and rarely observed in the context of other partisan or ideological issues. 

Rutenberg’s claim is that because Trump says things that are rude, politically incorrect, or debatable, and “conducting his campaign in ways we’ve not normally seen,” there is no need for news reporters to treat him to objective reporting. 

{mosads}As the gentleman puts it: “It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment. To do anything less would be untenable.”

So…by this standard, which has been honored more in the breach than the observance by the Times for years, Rutenberg justifies the open vilification of Trump’s statements in things written not just by opinion writers but by reporters as well.

It’s as fine a piece of hypocrisy clothed in “journalistic idealism” as you’ll ever see, and something that the Times will come to regret. They won’t regret it as much as they should, because the paper has demonstrated long before Trump arrived on the scene that they are unconcerned about those millions of readers, among their subscribers and potential subscribers, who are offended by their treatment of conservatives and Republicans. 

One might argue that this sort of journalistic and political myopia, in violation of every practice known to marketers of products of mass consumption, is within the Times’ discretion; that if they want to cater, whatever the cost, to the biases and anxieties of liberals and Democrats, they have the right to do so. 

But what they don’t have the right to do is to claim that this is the stuff of good journalism. It is, instead, a grievous injury to journalism, and to the country that, now more than ever, needs objective and balanced reporting by mainstream news organizations.

Actually, there is reason to believe that Rutenberg isn’t even much in touch with his own paper. If so, how could he have missed the opportunity to interview for his piece the Times’ Public Editor, Liz Spayd, who just a month earlier wrote a damning piece about the public’s views of the newspaper’s claims of objectivity.

Titled “Why Readers See The Times as Liberal,” Spayd concludes her piece with this: 

Imagine what would be missed by journalists who felt no pressing need to see the world through others’ eyes. Imagine the stories they might miss, like the groundswell of isolation that propelled a candidate like Donald Trump to his party’s nomination. Imagine a country where the greatest, most powerful newsroom in the free world was viewed not as a voice that speaks to all but as one that has taken sides.

Or has that already happened? 

Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute. The views expressed are his alone and not those of the Institute’s Board, contributors, or advisory councils.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump journalistic bias New York New York Times objectivity United States

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