The Nation calls for a reformation of the New York Times

May 15, 2022 • 11:45 am

When reader Linda sent me this link from the respected magazine The Nation (free read; click on screenshot below), I was delighted, thinking that writer Dan Froomkin was going to call out the NYT for its one-sided ultraprogressive Leftism that has begun seeping into its news coverage as well as having led to the newsroom’s dominance by social-media loudmouths.

I was out of luck. If anything, Froomkin is chastising the magazine and its previous editor, Dean Baquet, for being too easy on the Right! Click screenshot to read:

Froomkin thinks that the papers’ “both-side-ism” and its failure to call out Republican lies as the lies they are is going to hurt the Democrats during the midterm. His summary:

Under Baquet, the Times has treated the upcoming midterms like any other. Reporters have glibly asserted that Republicans are in great shape to sweep, and win back a majority in one or both houses of Congress. They have unquestioningly adopted the conventional political wisdom that midterms are a referendum on the president, and since Biden is underwater, it doesn’t matter what the Republicans stand for.

But that’s not what these midterms will actually be about. They won’t be about Joe Biden, or putting a “check” on his agenda. They won’t be a “protest vote”.

It’s not just that the GOP has become an insurrectionist party that traffics in hate-filled conspiracy theories and lies. Now the Supreme Court has evidently decided to repeal Roe v. Wade, and Republicans are planning to force pregnant women to term against their will.

For decades, the history of America has been of expanding human and constitutional rights. At this moment, however, we appear to be headed the other way—unless a supermajority says no at the ballot box. Starting in November.

That’s the real story of the midterms.

The goal of a responsible news organization is not to get people to vote a specific way. But it is to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake.

[JAC: what Froomkin means is “that everyone agrees with me’]

This potential tipping point is what New York Times journalists should be reporting the hell out of. Even more importantly, they need to be putting every daily political story squarely in that context.

Maybe I’ve missed something, but it seems to me that the NYT journalists have been doing that. They would regularly enumerate and point out Trump’s lies, and except for their few token conservative columnists, most oop-eds were precisely about the dangers of the Republican Party and platform.

Apparently not. Froomkin wants every political story to be slanted towards the perfidy of the Right. But is that objective journalism?  Here’s a list of how Froomkin says the Times has failed in its reporting (his quotes) and what the new editor, Joe Kahn, must fix lest our Republic dissolve in acrimony:

  • False equivalence or both-sidesing (“lawmakers from the two parties could not even agree on a basic set of facts”)
  • Focusing on what works instead of whether it’s true or false (“Republicans are using fears of critical race theory to drive school board recalls and energize conservatives”)
  • Attributing the most obviously true characterizations to “critics” or Democrats (“Rufo…has become, to some on the left, an agitator of intolerance”)
  • Spectacular understatement (“in a move that has raised eyebrows among diplomats, investors and ethics watchdogs, Mr. Kushner is trying to raise money from the Persian Gulf states”)
  • Pox on both your houses (“Democrats, without much to brag about, accuse Republicans of being afraid of competitive elections”)
  • Giving both parties credit for solving problems entirely created by Republicans (“Senate Democrats and Republicans neared agreement…to temporarily pull the nation from the brink of a debt default”)
  • Denial and gaslighting (Republicans “have been intent on rehabilitating themselves in the eyes of voters after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol last year”)

And more of his solution:

It doesn’t mean more “fact-checks” (which are insufficient, euphemistic, and skewed). It means rigorous lie-outing in the main news stories, and more stories about the motives behind the lies.

. . . The Times also needs to report aggressively and plainly on the racism, misogyny, and Christian nationalism that fuels the right, rather than covering it up with euphemisms.

Real independence manifests itself in exposing racial injustice and the civilian toll of US air strikes. It manifests itself in holding accountable institutions like the Supreme Court, the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers of Disease Control, major corporations, and, yes, both political parties—without fear or favor.

What he means by “both political parties” is apparently “one political party”—Republicans. God knows they ar the major danger to our democracy, but the solution to a Democratic victory cannot lie in slanting a paper whose news reporting is biased to the progressive Left towards the even farther left. Or in calling those who vote for Republicns racists, misogynists, or Christian nationalists. For THAT is disinformation!

For one thing, most Americans who vote for Republicans don’t read the New York Times. It would seem a far better for the Democrats to beef up their message to the people on immigration, the economy, and other issues that people care about than for one guy to hector the new editor of the NYT. Face it—we’re near the usual midterm downswing anyway, and it doesn’t help that the Democrats are fractured and Biden often appears senescent, with an all-time low approval rating.

But Froomkin’s solution to the wokeness of the New York Times appears to be for it to become more woke.

23 thoughts on “The Nation calls for a reformation of the New York Times

  1. Josh Barro did a round-table a couple of days ago on the subject of what some people are calling “The Vibe Is Shifting”-ie, a kind of peak wokeness. It’s a short podcast (36 min, and you can speed it up to half that and still understand what’s being said) with some very good people…..

    “The Vibe Is Shifting. Will the Media Follow?
    My conversation on the future of news with Bari Weiss, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rashida Jones and Jim VandeHei”

    https://www.joshbarro.com/p/the-vibe-is-shifting-will-the-media?s=r#details

  2. I was going to say, but you did so in your penultimate paragraph: Even if the NYT marched in lock-step with what this guy wants from it, it will scarcely matter. The readers of news are getting their stories from within their political silos. The weight of the NYT just ain’t what it used to be.

  3. “God knows they ar the major danger to our democracy…”

    Are they? Trumpism/Q-anon is indeed more insane and immoral than Wokeness, but wokeness is a form of explicit anti-rationality that’s now embedded in our institutions (including the sciences) and an entire generation is being indoctrinated in it. Trumpism seems like an ephemeral political evil, while Wokeness seems like the sort of religious craze that can bring down a civilization.

    1. Funny, I think the exact opposite is true. Trumpism, as you call it, is interested in overturning elections that the GOP and its voters don’t like. There’s not very many bigger challenges to our civilization than that.

      The Wokeness indoctrination you’re talking about is bad but does it really affect very many people? Sure, I can go to the local coffee shop and hear people talk in the far left’s odd language and ideas but who does it affect really? None of my neighbors talk that way and if they are even aware of it, I doubt they’d agree. It is a shame what’s happening at universities but even there I suspect most students are trying to get their degrees without being affected by it. Finally, we’ve seen what happens when there is even the merest suggestion of indoctrination at the grade school level. Parent are up in arms and there’s strong pushback.

      At the political level, the Biden administration does seem to pander to the far left a bit but each attempt pretty much fails. Instead, the Dems are being told that they need to move to the middle if they expect to win elections in most places in the US. For the last year, The Squad and Bernie Sanders have mostly been out in the wilderness as far as driving the agenda.

      So how do you see civilization being brought down exactly?

      1. “Sure, I can go to the local coffee shop and hear people talk in the far left’s odd language and ideas but who does it affect really?”

        And I might say the same about Q-anon. Which ideology has the most long-lasting effects is what you’re debating in the first place.

        “None of my neighbors talk that way and if they are even aware of it, I doubt they’d agree.”

        Again, same point as above. Also, it’s the true believers who lead these societal transformations, not necessarily the majority.

        “Parent are up in arms and there’s strong pushback.”

        Too little, too late. Check out the kid’s section at the local library. Rather difficult to find books that don’t message. As a homeschooler, I can assure you that my choices of material are often woke vs. fundie.

        “…The Squad and Bernie Sanders have mostly been out in the wilderness as far as driving the agenda.”

        The Tulsi Gabbards more so.

        “Trumpism, as you call it, is interested in overturning elections that the GOP and its voters don’t like.”

        Whereas the woke rejoice in the prospect of demographic replacement.

        “So how do you see civilization being brought down exactly?”

        Well, how are the few other theocracies presently doing?

        1. I don’t follow. If we have reason to fear falling into theocracy, surely it will come from the right. If you’re referring to the idea that Wokeness is theocratic, I find that idea unproductive and just plain wrong. Sure, the Woke believe strongly in their ideas and refuse to confront challenges with rational argument. That’s just fanaticism, not religion.

          And here’s the thing about QAnon, we actually have GOP politicians embracing their ideas. And don’t even try to maintain the both-sides argument that Wokeness is at the same craziness level as QAnon. They are talking about the world being run by a ring of pedophiles armed with Jewish space lasers. Finally, the Great Replacement is an idea pushed by the right. It is by no means clear that immigrants automatically vote Democrat anyway. Many don’t. It’s just an idea coming from the right in order to keep their dumb voters in a state of fear.

          1. “And don’t even try to maintain the both-sides argument that Wokeness is at the same craziness level as QAnon.”

            As I said: “Trumpism/Q-anon is indeed more insane and immoral than Wokeness…”

            “If we have reason to fear falling into theocracy, surely it will come from the right.”

            As I said: “As a homeschooler, I can assure you that my choices of material are often woke vs. fundie.” Only one of those religions is state sponsored.

            “That’s just fanaticism, not religion.”

            Fanaticism that’s heavily proselytized, provides a simplistic and absolute morality, and that seeks to subsume science and law.

            “…the Great Replacement is an idea pushed by the right.”

            I said “demographic replacement,” not “the Great Replacement.” That whites will soon be a minority is a rather straightforward fact.

            “It is by no means clear that immigrants automatically vote Democrat anyway.”

            Yes, the woke presently rejoice in the “browning of America,” but that could change. Or not, depending on which way future political winds blow.

            “It’s just an idea coming from the right in order to keep their dumb voters in a state of fear.”

            Their response is mostly natural. Both sides are exploiting the issue.

            “And here’s the thing about QAnon, we actually have GOP politicians embracing their ideas.”

            [Insert obvious response here]

      2. I still don’t know what the “far left” is. Could you or someone else reading this name, say, five items that aren’t of the political left but of the supposed “far” left? No, “defunding the police” isn’t one of them because that seems to be dead in the water. I read the NYT, The Nation, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and I like watching Reid, Hayes, Maddow, and Velshi on MSNBC—and I haven’t heard a peep about “defunding the police” from any of these sources, at least not in calendar year 2022 I haven’t. Here’s one that seems “far left”: cocaine and heroin, not just cannabis, should be legalized. Is that “far left”? No, because William F. Buckley, Jr., argued for the same thing for years!

        1. I’d say anyone preaching CRT as the solution to racism is far left. Those that practice cancel culture to the extent of getting people fired for non-criminal transgressions are far left. I could go on. It is quite simple really.

          1. Well, I don’t know about “preaching” Critical Race Theory, but if “CRT” (outside of law school) is now generalized code for “Black history,” I’m all for teaching it. As for cancel culture, I’m not sure that this is something exclusive to the left. Last I saw, the right is interested in canceling lots of authors. But, sure, wanting to tear down Lincoln or Darwin is over the top.

            1. Of course, CRT is NOT generalized code for black history. That’s a cover story. Same for “CRT is only taught in law school”. Yes, both sides do some cancelling. Not sure of your point.

        2. I refer to many of the same sources that you do, with the Nation being the most on the Left. The problem is not that they endorse openly the views of the far left on various issues (except for Israel and Palestine), but rather that they do not explicitly condemn them. This leads them open to the charge that they implicitly support the far left, but for political reasons refrain from doing so. For example, the riots taking place after the George Floyd murder resulted in the destruction of a lot of property. MSNBC refused to condemn the looting. It simply ignored it. Thus, it created an opening for the Right to attack mainstream liberal media.

    2. Even if I accept your redefinition of wokeness as ‘intolerant things left wingers do,’ as opposed to its original meaning of being aware of the social context in which you find yourself, I think there’s a pretty big difference between, say, right wing speakers getting some lectures cancelled and a bunch of corpses in Buffalo.

      1. Did I say there was no difference between the situations? And I’ve written how the definition of “wokeness” has changed; nearly all use it now the way I do. I also said yesterday that the Right poses a larger danger by far to the US than the left. So stop lecturing me.

  4. I was talking about something like this in another context with a friend. If all a media outlet is doing is providing commentary (two minutes of hate), while I am sure there are some folks who are consoled by that, surely that isn’t really a business strategy. If the NYT is only going to say that Republicans are bad, that’s not news, it’s entertainment, and rather formulaic. Surely those who want news and entertainment would look elsewhere. And, as you say, they aren’t changing minds.

  5. Froomkin provides lots of examples of the NYT framing stories and editorials in ways that favor the right. Coyne just takes as a given that the NYT under Baquet leans progressive, but provides no evidence at all to support that contention.

  6. CRT is anti-history and anti-truth, and it is infecting all of our educational institutions at all levels, including primary schools as well as universities. Academics are losing their jobs in droves because of wokeness, reverse racism and a power struggle that has nothing to do with racism but rather the empowerment of another belief system (race if you prefer) that behaves like a theocracy. Unabashed pronouncements of the need to squash “white privilege” are accompanied by calls to bestow privilege only on those of a different color. All of this is not only lies but propaganda of the same kind that Stalin used to squash, exile or execute dissenters, to the tune of about 30 million lives. CRT and anti intellectualism that scorns all of western civilization and culture are a serious authoritarian threat to not only our culture but to democracy. In the end there will be a violent backlash of the right against this because the left and the woke and the blacks continue to provide them with justification and good reasons to fight back……the left and woke are handing weapons to the extreme right. Good for some kind of laugh.

  7. The country would be better off if the NYT did what Froomkin meant (i.e., become a partisan rag for the Left: I think Jerry is right about that). And far better off if it did what Froomkin said, i.e. vigorously truth-checking and motive-explaining about both parties. Both-sides-ing, in particular, needs to die; it sets up a race to the bottom, where the side with the bigger and bolder lies has the advantage.

    The trouble is, both-sides posing as objectivity is easy and offends few subscribers. It’s easy because you just need stenographers, not reporters. And more subscribers means more advertising revenue. No doubt that’s why it was invented around the middle of the last century and made such a successful business model.

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