The increasing wokeness of the New York Times

Not long ago I finally broke down and subscribed to the New York Times, hoping at last to have full access to at least one good newspaper. Now I find that “good” is a relative term, as the Times (as you can see from this transcribed editorial conference) seems to be becoming more Woke, converging on Salon and constantly emphasizing identity and grievance politics. It’s become increasingly sensitive to backlash from the Left, which means it’s losing its independence.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to unsubscribe (yet), and there is some good, solid journalism in there. Plus it’s got the best science reporting of any paper going—and good fine, wine, and travel sections.

But I felt weird when they famously changed a headline in response to readers’ backlash. Here’s the original one, referring to Trump’s statement after the two recent mass shootings:

Which, though I despise Trump and think he’s bigoted and divisive, seemed to me an accurate account of what he actually said. But after some furious backlash from people who couldn’t stand that headline, they changed the words so that the banner became more of an indictment of Trump:

What bothered me about this was that the replacement headline reported what Trump didn’t say, and that isn’t news but editorializing. After all, Trump didn’t say a lot of things in that statement, and why mention what he left out, namely guns?

Why? Because the NYT has an explicitly anti-Trump agenda (which I share), but they’re starting to let their editorial views bleed into the news. As one staffer said in the editorial meeting:

And the issue with last week’s headline was not really about Trump per se. It was really more broadly about what kind of credulousness we want to reflect in terms of an administration—any administration. Or about other cases where we’re sort of shying away from the real content of the story to put a milder spin on it in the headline, which is sometimes actively misleading.

In other words, they needed to put a more critical spin on that headline, and somehow stick the needle into Trump, which they did. But they already do that every day on their editorial page, and that’s fine. The “real content of the story”, of course, is purely subjective, and you know what it is in this case.

Historically, the Times famously kept news and editorial apart, but now they’re increasingly merging, and you can see it every day in the news.  Here’s the very first headline I saw when I opened the website this morning:

Now you can argue whether this is even worth noting (I don’t think it is), but it’s a piece in the “Critic’s Notebook”: Poniewozik is the Times‘s chief television critic. But instead of criticizing a television show, he goes off on a polemic about how they shouldn’t let Sean Spicer (a lying and oleaginous creature, to be sure) appear on that show, because it effaces how evil he was:

. . .it isn’t cool to get mad about things like this. It’s so strident. It’s so earnest. If you high-mindedly wrestle with a goofy sideshow like “Dancing With the Stars,” you just get glitter all over you, and the show gets ratings.

But this is one time when we should get uptight. “Dancing With the Stars” is just a silly, innocuous reality show, that’s true. And that’s exactly why it shouldn’t be helping Sean Spicer dry-clean his reputation.

. . .Now, look: It’s not as if reality shows cast only paragons of honesty. But this is not simply a matter of Sean Spicer’s having lied. It’s a matter of Sean Spicer’s being a liar, professionally.

That is, he’s not a famous person who happened to do something dishonest. He is a person who is famous — singularly, even in an era of “alternative facts” — for spreading disinformation, about the inauguration, about the president’s claims that he was wiretapped by the previous administration, about Michael Flynn’s resignation. At least publicly, dishonesty is his brand.

But that’s just the point. To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did, which was to say things so absurdly false that he invited his political side to join him in denying their own eyeballs, to encourage people to believe that facts don’t matter if they hurt your team.

To put him on a silly reality show is to say that he committed a silly offense and that you’re silly if you still make a big deal about it — everybody lies, everybody does what they’ve got to do to get by, everything’s a joke, just stop being such a fussbudget and enjoy the show.

Letting Sean Spicer tango onto prime time this fall is not the largest disgrace of all time. But it’s still a disgrace. Period.

 

85 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I chose the Post over the Times although it was kind of a coin toss. Hope it is a little better in this regard but editorial must be completely separate from straight news.

    My thought is – long as the owner stays out of it and hires nothing but real news people to run it, the Post will last where others have all failed. Money should not be the problem.

  2. BJ
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of an article by someone who was an editor and correspondent at the NYT for twelve years and wrote the following article two days after Trump was elected and an article I suggest everyone read in full: https://deadline.com/2016/11/shocked-by-trump-new-york-times-finds-time-for-soul-searching-1201852490/

    One of many interesting parts (entire quote in italics):

    “It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

    “Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

    “The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

    This was the article that confirmed for me that I had made the right decision just about a year or two earlier to cancel my subscription to the paper. I cancelled my subscription after noticing an increasing trend of shaping and pushing narratives — not on the editorial pages, but in places like the regular news pages, the arts reviews and articles, and everywhere else — by selectively reporting, using weasel words and phrases, writing misleading headlines, and curating facts for certain stories to give them a slant they would otherwise lack (or leaving certain facts until the last three paragraphs, where they know only a very small percentage of readers will see them).

    It occurred to me upon reading this piece that I had always been naive about even my favorite media outlets. There is no outlet that lacks an agenda, no outlet that doesn’t have a “narrative” they want to push. But some have more of that than others, and it’s disappointing to me that the NYT has gone further and further into this territory ever since Trump showed up on the nominee circuit. I feel like there was a moment when the NYT did really have the chance to become the “paper of record”: the paper that told the truth, all of it, no matter what it was. Why be like every other media outlet when you can distinguish yourself in a market that’s seeing ever-dwindling profit margins and ever-increasing competition? But they chose another path. Oh well.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      As Eusebius boasted: “I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of our religion.”

    • Peter
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Thanks for posting the link to the article by a former editor and correspondent at the NYT.

      • BJ
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        No problem. I know my post was a bit long, but it seemed highly relevant to the subject at hand.

        • H
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          I appreciate your thoughtful post. Thanks

          • BJ
            Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

            And thank you for the compliment!

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              Get a room, you two. 🙂

              • BJ
                Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                No you!

  3. Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Dancing With The Stars should pair up Sean Spicer with Melissa McCarthy.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    It’s worrisome when journalists cave to pressures of mass protest. Just report the story and stick by it.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      The NYT would not consider caving to the GOP rattling their cage, or even Obama. It’s a curious twist that pressure from the zombie left can have this effect.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Hard to say what’s changed. The media, especially newspapers, have always had a political slant. Now, with the advent of Trump, though, it seems like he is so reviled that anything he does is treated as objectively stupid/evil, and so it the distinction between opinion and fact is elided.

    I saw this (Trump says he wanted to give himself Medal of Honor) yesterday, and thought, Jesus christ, here we go again! But then I read the piece, and watched the video, and it was clearly a joke, and the audience accepted it as such.

    Trump is a bad President, but Trump Derangement Syndrome is real.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Donald Trump has smashed to smithereens 230 years of US presidential norms and traditions, especially when it comes to his non-stop bullshitting and outrageous and crude statements. US media organizations have been thrashing about like ignorant armies who clash by night in trying to find an approach for dealing with such an unprecedented president.

      Problem is, such norms and traditions are much easier smashed than they will be restored post-Trump.

      • Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        They are gone for good. The damage he has done will last a decade or longer. Some of it will not be restored in a lifetime. For example, political elites found out how far they can “bend” the truth, and saw they can go very far. Trump has performed a comprehensive material test.

        The US arrived, like Russia, in a complete post-truth. The idea is not straight propaganda anymore, telling you what to think through emotionally loaded stories, but sowing so much confusion with twenty three different versions of events, nobody knows anymore what is going on. The other politicians should be seen as pure paragons of honesty compared to Trump, but reading all these different versions every day overwhelms everyone. Instead you get a pragmatic cynicism and false balance heuristic: “Everyone lies, there’s a grain of truth in everything and while Trump might be a little bit more dishonest than others, hasn’t AOC or Sanders or someone recently said something slightly inaccurate and that’s basically the same thing as what Trump does. You cannot trust anything”

        This is alas the ideal situation for people with a lot of money and influence, and authoritarian political tribes. It’s right-wing political terraforming. They have some of the extremest authoritarians, see Evangelicals. Trump, remember is an adulterer, serial divorcee, paid hush money, appeared in the softcore documentary “Playboy Video Centerfold 2000 Bernaola Twins” with official IMDB credit, is by his own admission a sex harasser (grabbing etc). I cannot stress how bizarre this is.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure his effects are that lasting. For one thing, for most of his time in office he’s been a remarkable distraction. An entertainer, really. But people are getting tired of his style and, I think, will be looking for a return to normality. Also, if he ends up in the clink for 10 or 20 years, his legacy might be less impactful.

      • Jim Swetnam
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        +

      • Posted August 24, 2019 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        +1

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      I am a veteran, and for the President of the United States to “joke” about giving himself the Medal is at once deeply insulting and profoundly ignorant. That he has followers who would laugh at that just makes it more disturbing. This is unprecedented lunacy, and it’s not even the craziest thing he’s done lately. Am I suffering from TDS?

  6. Historian
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    On the other hand, the NYT has posted an op-ed by Mitch McConnell justifying the filibuster. You would never see this in Salon. The paper claims to be committed to publishing a diversity of viewpoints. I think they have fulfilled that pledge. In the Age of Trump, I think it is difficult for news sources to appear objective to all people since we live in such a polarized society. For example, which of these hypothetical headlines is more objective. First, “Trump claims climate change is a hoax,” or second, “Trump lies about climate change”? Both headlines are true, but the second would incur the wrath of those claiming the news source is biased. In my view, which I imagine some will disagree with, is that a straight news story should contain more than just the facts. Rather, it should report on the veracity of what it is reporting on. If it doesn’t do that then the reader may very well believe that blatantly false statements are true. We should not count on readers to do their own research as to the truthfulness of statements reported in news stories. This is an unrealistic expectation. Maybe the solution is for a paper to have both headlines for the story.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      The broader problem, and not just at the NYT, is that everything is op-ed now.

      _

      “Trump claims climate change is a hoax,” or second, “Trump lies about climate change”? Both headlines are true….

      I encounter this incorrect use of ‘lying’ more and more among the Left, and myself have been accused of ‘lying’ many times. However, even if mistaken and wrong, a person is not lying if they believe what they say is true.

      ‘You lie!’ is something a child screams, and I can only chalk it up to the growing infantilization of public discourse.

      • Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        And what kind of bubble does Trump live in that he does not know that the evidence for global warming is indisputable? If a person is willfully ignorant and makes counterfactual statements, he lies.

        • Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          No, we shouldn’t play loose with definitions.

          Lie: n. a false statement made with the intention of deceiving. —v.t. to utter falsehood with an intention to deceive.

          Describing the expression of earnestly-held beliefs as intentional deceit only feeds into the manichaean demonizing of opponents so prevalent, especially among the far left, nowadays.

          • Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

            A statement is truthful, mistaken or a lie. I can reasonably expect that statements made by climate change deniers, like those made by evolution deniers, are made with the intention to deceive. And when they come from politicians, doubly so.

            There is no way anyone can ascertain if a belief is earnestly held, so that can’t be a criterion. If the evidence is there and available to all, as it is in these cases, and someone makes statements counter to the evidence, then they are being willfully ignorant for the purpose of deceiving people. They are liars.

            • Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              Well, you’ve both changed the standard definition of ‘to lie’, and established your own arbitrary criteria for determining / mind-reading someone’s intent. That won’t fly.

              • Jim Swetnam
                Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                If I follow your reasoning correctly, then there is no lie in the expression of an “earnestly held belief.” You appear to be saying that we should always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone as to what they claim to believe. OK. My questions have to be: Even in the case of serial liars? Even, as Darwinwins, has pointed out in the face of overwhelming evidence?”

                In a legal sense, agreed, the benefit of the doubt is required. But in real life? Bought any bridges lately?

                I have to admit, however, that Trump is so profoundly ignorant that he may well truly believe that denialist BS.

              • Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

                I believe we should reserve the accusation of lying for when intentional deceit has been established.

                I was recently accused of ‘lying’ for describing Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), a phenomenon my accusers don’t believe exists, but which I — and Dr. Lisa Littman — most earnestly do.

          • Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

            It is questionable that Trump and other climate deniers really believe what they say about climate change. I suspect (but can’t prove) that they actually favor short-term economic gain over solving what they see as a long-term problem that will be costly to resolve. In their myopic view, dealing with climate change costs money and, in many cases, hurts their investments or their campaign finance sources. It is unlikely to be because they disagree with the climate science.

            • Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

              There are some so-called ‘experts’, in the employ of the fossil fuel industry, who clearly know better, and are just whoring themselves.

              I still think it’s best to not label any opposing viewpoint ‘a lie’, which happens to often. And that’s all I have to say on the subject.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          Contradictory statements by the same person constitute perjury per se (where made under oath). I should think that a similar standard would justify characterizing at least one such statement a “lie” — as would circumstantial evidence that the speaker knew that a statement was false when made.

          In general, however, I think the more prudent journalistic practice when there is some doubt as to the speaker’s state of mind would be to refer to such a statement as “demonstrably (or provably) false” rather than as a “lie.”

          • Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

            I am okay with demonstrably false. But we all know he is lying.

            • Jim Swetnam
              Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

              Yup.

  7. Ccommenter
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Hi, Jerry!

    I have noticed that you often emphasize the “wokeness” of people on the left who engage in all kinds of shenanigans. I (sincerely) wonder what “woke” means to you and why it comes up so explicitly and so often in your posts.

    I am asking for the following reason. I have been following countless news sources (including sources from the far-left and from the far-right) for quite some time now. And, even though my sources may still be biased in several ways, I would say that:

    1. Those who are accused of being obsessed with being or appearing “woke” hardly ever mention the word, while

    2. some others on the left (who emphatically do not identify with “woke culture”) seem to use that word very, very often.

    I don’t understand why and I wonder if maybe people are using the word “woke” in incompatible ways. My dictionary suggests “woke” means “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” I don’t understand how such a modest set of ideals could seem so offensive to people on the left.

    Thank you

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      My own definition doesn’t coincide with the dictionary definition, of course, as who could opposite societal injustice. To me it means those people who are members of the ‘offense culture’: who do very little except criticize others for ideological impurity while flaunting their own ideological purity. It comprises, for instance, those people who went after Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin on false accusations of racism, or those, like the protestors of Boston’s MFA kimono show, who picketed it (generally, anyone who cries “cultural appropriation” is woke).

      And, as far as I know, “woke” was actually originated by the woke, not by their critics. But the term has been coopted by critics.

      • Ccommenter
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the quick reply, Jerry.

        You should, of course, feel free to use whichever words you prefer in order to explain your views on trends in modern culture. No question about that.

        But I can’t help but feeling that using the word “woke” like this is counter-productive. I can’t really explain my thoughts or feelings very well, but I will try to give it a shot.

        Usage #1: Some people on the left who genuinely care about reducing social injustice (including racism) in a constructive way identify as “woke.”

        We (presumably) want to support these people because their values and their strategies are, roughly speaking, most compatible with the tradition of Humanism.

        Usage #2: Some on the far-right use the word “woke” to ridicule the strategies and goals of the above group of people.

        We (presumably) do not want to be associated with those people because we do not want to give them more legitimacy by numbers.

        Usage #3: Some on the left use the word “woke” to ridicule some of the strategies (such as online harassment) and some of the goals (gaining social status by virtue signaling, the pleasure of condescension, and the fun of hurting others) of some people who also vaguely identify as “left” or “progressive.”

        This is already a mess, but I believe that headlines and opinion pieces make the confusion almost intolerable:

        When the far-right writes “the wokes are at it again!!,” it really means to express that “they think racism is routinely over-stated in the most hyperbolic of ways, which is why they oppose any further discussion of it.” When the left writes “the wokes are at it again!!,” it really expresses that “it is committed to reducing racism in a constructive way, but these people are doing something else that needs to be confronted.”

        I hope I am making some sense.

        • Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

          I figured that no matter what I said, you were going to rebuke me for what I meant by “woke”. You weren’t “just asking questions”, were you?

          But yes, I will use whatever words I want, and I’ve explained what I meant by “woke”. And I reject your language policing and your claim that I’m hurting real progress by using the word “woke”. What people mean is eminently clear from who is speaking and what they say when they use the word.

        • Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          Some people on the left who genuinely care about reducing social injustice (including racism) in a constructive way identify as “woke.”
          We (presumably) want to support these people because their values and their strategies are, roughly speaking, most compatible with the tradition of Humanism.

          These ‘some people’ have: 1) overstated the extent of the problem; 2) misidentified the causes; 3) adopted or proposed ineffective — and often counterproductive — tactics & strategies. So, no, we should not want to support them at all.

          • Cc
            Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

            Dear Matt,

            This comment of yours appears to be conflating meaning 1, meaning 2, and meaning 3 of the word “woke” in my post. Did you read the whole post?

            • Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

              Always assume I’ve read everything carefully.

              I refer to the people who fall under your “Usage #1”, which should have been obvious from my quotation.

              • CCCommenter
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 12:21 am | Permalink

                Dear Matt,

                You still seem to be conflating usage 1, usage 2, and usage 3. The point of my post was to point out that one word has at least three incompatible but common meanings. And I wondered if that could lead to confusion.

                Your posts demonstrate that even with an explicit and itemized list of explanations, the word “woke” still confuses people. So, thanks for illustrating my point.

        • Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          The use of “woke” by the Left to describe each other represents a binary good/bad judgement of people. This attitude is NOT helpful to social justice efforts but is part of a virtue signalling protocol. Virtue signalling is a natural part of human character but it’s counter-productive when it is raised to this level. It also seems anathema to social justice which seeks to treat everyone with respect.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      My dictionary suggests “woke” means “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” I don’t understand how such a modest set of ideals could seem so offensive to people on the left.

      Perhaps this paraphrase might clarify why ‘wokeness’ is of concern to those of us not of the far left:

      alert to threats to the flock, especially a wolf.’

      • Jim Swetnam
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Not clear at all. You’re afraid of puppy dogs, when the real wolves are already eating your flock.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

          Apt metaphor.

        • Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          There is no wolf.

          • Jim Swetnam
            Posted August 23, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

            This whole exchange reads like a koan. Cool?

            • Jim Swetnam
              Posted August 23, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              Should be an exclamation point at the end not question mark.

            • Posted August 23, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              LOL

  8. darrelle
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    With respect to news in general my perception seems quite similar to yours Jerry. It seems to me that the norm these days is “news that sells.” Growing up the major news sources seemed to be more focused on informing the public about relevant events. Now it’s more about views and clicks. And to that end news sources, even the major ones, seem to work to create a narrative that is attractive to their target audience. And this leads to them molding public opinion that isn’t based on an accurate accounting of events but an accounting skewed to fit within a mutually (audience and news sources) created narrative.

    I think this change in journalism is a significant factor in how we’ve arrived at a Trump presidency. The press haven’t been doing their job the way society needs them to. Because of this the public is much less well informed. Because of this the press officiates presidential debates as if they were professional wrestling matches and declares the most aggressive candidate the winner. Some of the public agree and would have no matter what. Some of the public agree because vicarious indignation feels good and since the press agrees it must be okay. Some of the public agrees because even though they themselves think the press is a reality show not worth watching everyone’s saying so. Some have given up because nothing seems to work to counter this mud-slide down to banana republic status.

    I’ve got to admit though, I agree with JAMES PONIEWOZIK about Dancing With The Stars having Spicer on as a contestant. I’m not sure where articles like this should be placed but I do think it is important for the public to see articles like this. Particularly these days. The foulest behavior perpetrated by the few with the most power has become so normalized that we see multiple examples every week, with little or no attempt to hide them, and that would have caused a major crisis in past administrations or even ended them. And nothing happens except that people like me point them out and get “TDS!” thrown back at me by people on the other side. Pointing out that normalizing this obscene behavior is bad needs to happen.

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Exactly.

  9. G
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Competition from social media has had its effect as well. The outlier opinions, expressed as loudly as possible, combined with “siloization”/firehouse effects and shrinking attentions spans may be inducing the Times and others to abandon objectivity. Shame that.

  10. dd
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I subscribed to the NYTimes for around 35 years and stopped about 2 years ago.

    The paper has changed and routinely runs editorialized news on its front page, not marked as editorials, but which are in essence editorials. And its news reporting became palpably distorted. A few examples from memory:

    After Ferguson there was much attention paid to the the shooting of unarmed men by the police. Invariably, the NYTimes would only run major headlines of these shootings if the victim were black, and especially if the police were white. I noticed there were hardly ever any headlines noting that white or hispanic men were dying this way. (I will let you google the Washington Post database detailing shootings by the police.)

    There was the coverage of the 2015 immigrant flows into Europe, with its misleading photographs (so many about women and children), when in fact, the vast majority of people migrating were young men. And the writing accompanying these articles also betrayed deep distortions.

    This year, in an article for Pride week, the Times attempted to almost re-writte the history of Stonewall by minimizing how critical non-trans gay white men were to that event. (This is now the fashion in Stonewall revisionism.)

    I will stop there with examples. Many people have noticed the change. And yes, its science coverage is terrific, largely due to Carl Zimmer. But note well that when it comes to issues of sex/gender, the times has come round to practically dismissing biology, something made clear in its coverage and editorials of Castor Semenya.

    I link below to 2 articles about the Times…one from a conservative writer, Rod Dreher, who just cancelled, with deep regret, his subscription. And James Kirchik from tablet on the Stonewall in general. (Andrew Sullivan wrote about the article, I believe, directly.)

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-waste-of-now-trump-new-york-times/

    https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/287729/transgendering-stonewall

  11. Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    What was missing in Trump’s platitudinous speech was any mention of the fact that Latino victims were targeted. And of course he was complicit in getting them targeted with his continuous hate speech against them. I agree with Nate. The first headline does not capture how inadequate Trump’s speech was. And the second is not much better.

    • Peter
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I think it is appropriate and fair to mention in a headline things that were conspicuously absent in the speech of a major politician. In this particular case: the absence of any mention of how continued easy access to guns enables mass shootings, and how the mass shooting in Texas was based on ideas that Trump himself has helped spreading. Mentioning these things is like being alert to the fact that the dog didn’t bark – in the Sherlock Holmes story. But, overall, PCC (E) is most likely right that wokeness and Trump Derangement Syndrome have affected the NYT negatively.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Historically, the Times famously kept news and editorial apart, but now they’re increasingly merging, and you can see it every day in the news.

    I’m pretty sure the NYT still has in place its famously strict church-state separation between its editorial board and news division. I think what we’re seeing is the personnel within the news department letting their own woke political views bleed into the reporting and headline writing.

    But, hell, if what I wanted were entertaining (and at times politically charged) headlines, I’d subscribe to The NY Post instead.

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I also believe that it is acceptable that journalists speak from their own point of view. At least in some significant portion they are paid to interpret what they see for the rest of us. And that’s what we pay for. Do you seriously imagine that newspapers have ever been any different? If you want balance then just watch Tucker Carlson on Fox after you’ve read the NYT.

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The question today is, if you do not get your news from the Times or the Post, where do you get it? From Facebook where millions go for their news? From Twitter? Nearly all of the good print news journalism is in decline today and has been long before Trump. Rich guys are buying up most of the big city papers and turning them into junk. Others go broke because they cannot compete with the internet and your phone. America gives a shit about good journalism and straight news about the same as they care about their president.

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Just recently I got a subscription to The Economist. It seems pretty even handed to me.

      • Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        I love the Economist. Opinionated but fair and research-driven. I also love their sense of humor.

  14. Roo
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that news is moving to a more free market model. While I think rightwing news says some things that are absolutely nuts, I have gotten into the habit of checking them when it comes to reactions to left-centric stories, as they tend to be the check and balance that includes otherwise omitted facts there. In that specific role, I think they serve a useful purpose. This is not an ideal model but it’s better than nothing I suppose.

  15. Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I totally agree. It really bothers me when publications give truth to the Trump claim that the media is biased. Now it seems the media is not even trying to be fair.

    That said, it must be difficult for the media to know how to handle Trump’s madness and where to draw the line. If they report what he says straight up, they are helping him broadcast his lies and propaganda. If they call him out on the lies and propaganda, they run the risk of at least appearing to be biased. Of course, in the media, appearance of bias is hard to distinguish from actual bias.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      And then there’s the issue of when pointing out inaccurate information or lies is called “BIAS!”. That old saying, “Reality has a well known liberal bias,” is appropriate here.

  16. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Years ago, I used to receive occasional telephone calls from the NYT, begging me to subscribe. I always responded by asking “Does the NYT have funnies?”, the funnies being the only part of the local newspaper that I look at. The last time the NYT called, the voice on the phone replied “Yes” to my question, I asked to speak with its supervisor, and it rang off.

    I don’t know if the NYT subscription department has called in the last few years, because I no longer answer calls. My phone receives an average of ~20 calls per day, almost all of them scammers hiding behind fraudulent IDs, so I let all calls go to Voice Messages unless I recognize the ID.
    Telephone scammers will no doubt soon begin to use the numbers of people I know as their fake IDs, at which point the telephone itself will have become obsolete—just as pervasive fraud on all sides is making obsolete so much else we once relied upon.

  17. Taz
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    they’re starting to let their editorial views bleed into the news

    I recall a series of Doonesbury strips criticizing the Wall Street Journal for this exact same thing after Murdoch took it over. I agreed with Trudeau then and I agree with PCC now.

  18. Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    That this kind of thing has invaded the NY Times is not news: if Trump walked across the Potomac the headline would read, “Trump can’t swim.”

    Trump haters might consider this abandonment of journalistic standards welcome and justified, but Ken Kukec (reply to #5 above) puts his finger on what for me is the scariest part: once trust in the impartiality of our news sources is shattered, putting it back together again post-Trump will be Humpty Dumpty writ large. I worry that it’s already too late to reverse this trend.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      It’s how you undermine democratic institutions like journalism. You discredit it (and they make it easy with stupid click bait and succumbing to all the wrong incentives which I guess isn’t all their direct fault) and then when people feel that they can’t trust it and no matter what it’s all lies, then that’s one institution down. You don’t have to prove it wrong or fight it, just introduce doubt. Russia has played this game well.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I like the sound of “post-Trump” anyway. We’re going to have to rebuild a lot of things once he’s gone. The sooner the better.

      • Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        “The sooner the better.”

        Amen to that, though it would be nice to get rid of Trump without becoming Trump.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      If Trump walked across the Potomac, the only sensible conclusion anyone can draw is that it is winter and the Potomac is frozen.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        …and that the ice is very thick.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      … but Ken Kukec (reply to #5 above) puts his finger on what for me is the scariest part …

      See? Even a blind bird finds a worm once in a while, Gary. 🙂

  19. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I think it would be good to go back and take real look at the average newspaper in the Watergate era, the downmarket and the upmarket, to see whether it’s an illusion brought on by nostalgia or whether it’s true, and the media has gone to pot.

    I suspect it’ll be somewhere between the two, but it’s often eye-opening to actually check these things by going back and looking at the things that seem so great in retrospect. It rarely turns out to be that simple.

    There is a friend of the family, a hardcore Brexiteer, who complains about everywhere being ‘dirtier’ than it used to be, London in particular.

    But I look back at London as it was for me as a kid and I remember it being absolutely filthy – newspapers billowing through the streets, ubiquitous fossilised albino dogshits(we don’t see them anymore but they used to be everywhere), old food dumped on the side of the pavement, no bins for miles…

    Nostalgia has such power. You might want to go back and look at old media. I suspect you’re right that it’ll turn out to have been better in some ways, but I think it’ll also turn out to be worse in other ways, ways that we don’t even notice because we’ve become so used to the positive changes that eradicated those flaws.

    Either way, doing this kind of deep dive into the past is almost always worthwhile.

  20. Jim Swetnam
    Posted August 23, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I do agree that there are troubling, and annoying aspects of “woke” culture, not he least of which is curtailing free speech. But I can’t get past the fact that all of this emotion does come from good motives at the core. It’s undisciplined and misdirected, but never the less these people should be our natural allies! Instead some in the left and center appear to view them as an existential threat on a par with Donald Trump.

    And now for some pure speculation: There is a gross similarity to campus actions today and those during the Vietnam War. Then and now college youth were consumed by fear: Then of dying in a rice paddy, today of the very real possibility that you might live to see then end of life as we know it. This fear may be at the heart of much campus anger today, which is manifesting as unfocused, unplanned, and reactive behavior, the woke spectacles. This fear and anger is an untapped source of energy for the left if properly channeled. To be sure I lack the talent or the vision to prescribe such a channel, but we have seen at least two politicians who achieved some success in capturing the imaginations of youth: Bernie Sanders and AOC. Bernie’s an old white man, but he created a youth base for himself with a message of change. He captured their imaginations and directed their energy. Since his dismissal in the Democratic primary it kinda seems like woke shenanigans have increased, perhaps as a further indication of frustrations with the establishment. Maybe they haven’t increased and possibly there’s no connection, still…

    Then there’s AOC. She’s been given pretty short shift by the liberal establishment and my perception is that yeah she was pretty green and naive at first but trainable. To be sure she has since drifted into very problematical territory, and now I’m not at all sure what to think about her, and she’s losing ground in her own district. I know that you consider her to be (overtly?) anti-Semitic. That would indeed be deplorable, and I confess that I don’t know enough to dispute that. In any event, the salient fact is that she got elected in the first place. At the very least she has demonstrated a skill at mobilizing her base that seems to be discounted. Isn’t anyone asking why her constituents voted for her?

    After that long-winded ramble, my point is simple: If our main purpose is to defeat Trump, why spend so much time attacking those who might be our allies? Shouldn’t unity be our goal? The right has certainly learned that lesson well. Their tent is large enough to hold the religious right, white supremacists, 4chan anarchists, traditional conservatives, and oligarchs. Is the existential threat that you fear some unholy bargain similar to that which has destroyed the integrity of the GOP? Is that more frightening than more Trump?

    You seem rather prickly on this subject, so please know that I am merely respectfully disagreeing with you on some points, but no personal criticism is intended, and all of my questions are sincere attempts to understand your viewpoint. And, as I have no crystal ball nor great wisdom, all of my speculations could be pure wind.

    • Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Sure, their hearts are in the right place … until you see the vitriol and dismissiveness they portray toward anyone with a nuanced opinion, someone who is a white male, or merely uses the words other than those that they revere. There have been so many terrible examples but the first one that comes to mind is the young white girl who chose a kimono (or was it a sari?) for her wedding dress. She was mercilessly slammed for cultural appropriation. How dare she wear an Asian dress when she is not Asian? So what do you think? Did they have their hearts in the right place? I think not.

      • Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        I should add that most here support the social justice agenda but hate to see it turned into a religion where one is either in the choir or an enemy. I think we see a need to curb the excesses of some on the Left lest they alienate potential allies and cause the entire Left to be labelled as unreasonable kooks. We already see Trump attempting to use unthoughtful comments by the Squad (AOC, Tlaib, etc.) to exemplify the entire Democratic Party. Every group needs to keep its crazies in line.

        • Jim Swetnam
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          “Every group needs to keep its crazies in line.” The GOP didn’t and it worked for them.

          Perhaps I’ve answered my own question: We’re not sufficiently motivated nor evil to do what it takes to win. Is that the existential fear? That we will become evil?

          The argument is always that we should be going after potential allies rather than incorporating the ones we already have. I suspect that there are fewer of the former than the latter.

          One question remains: Do you think them untrainable, unreachable, to be utterly cast out? Or is it that no one has found the right message to channel them? To keep them in line? Is that their fault or those in the “establishment?”

          • Posted August 23, 2019 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

            I too worry that the GOP’s evil will beat the opposition. They are willing to cheat at a constantly escalating level. The Tea Party brought in a raft of politicians with very little sense or scruples and now in Trump they have a leader with none.

            I do cringe a bit when I hear the calls for unity from the Left. Sure, we do want unity but not at any cost and merely calling for it sounds weak. I think the only way our side wins is with the passage of time and the gradual change in demographics and peoples’ minds. As Stephen Pinker describes in his books, things do gradually get better with constant application of hard work and good ideas. Let’s hope the current troubles are just one of the many setbacks that we just have to survive.

            • Jim Swetnam
              Posted August 23, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

              Paul, may I call you that?, Have you read the article “Speak Up,” on page 10 in this week’s Economist? They report that %37 of college student approve of shutting down a speaker. That’s your future demographic sir. I maintain that it’s even more important than ever to reach them right now. I’m an old white man, but by god I still remember what its like to be 19 or 20 in college, and how dumb I was and how I didn’t listen to or respect my elders. Hell I still don’t respect a lot of them.

              • Posted August 23, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

                I am an Economist subscriber but usually a week or two behind in my reading. I look forward to checking out the article you mention.

                Dr Coyne writes a lot on what’s happening in liberal arts colleges these days. It is a terrible thing. Even comedians won’t do shows on college campuses these days. (Not that that is that great a loss but it is an important symptom.) My hope is that these bad ideas are not going to stick with them very long. As soon as they go out in the real world, they will be forced to give them up. On the other hand, they are missing out on their education.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

                I agree Paul. It was similar back in the 60s, to some extent, idealism was important and impactful, but half the time out of sync with reality, I’m afraid. Perhaps it is a natural thing for youth to create a stir. Perhaps youth have been creating a stir for centuries.

  21. Andrew
    Posted August 25, 2019 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    “Trump is the real malefactor here, since it’s the job of his press secretaries to lie for him.” I can’t disagree wih you more, Jerry. After all, the reason we hate Spicer and his ilk is that he lied to us every day like he was just having a drink of water. We cannot dismiss that by saying it was his job. It was not his job to lie. He was paid by our tax dollars and it is not naive to expect better of anyone in his position. He held an important communications position and he willingly misled the country every day. He does not deserve for us to let him forget it.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 25, 2019 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Point well made.


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