How the mighty have fallen, is the phrase that comes to mind regarding the New York Times whose credibility, and indeed stature, has taken a beating from which it will take quite a while to recover.
Now the publisher of the New York Times — wilting under a barrage of castigation from irate readers — has “penned a letter to readers Friday promising that the paper would “reflect” on its coverage of this year’s election while rededicating itself to reporting on “America and the world” honestly.”
Even so, the letter obstinately insists that the Times reported the election fairly and with integrity throughout. Readers of the paper know that’s utter bunkum — something the paper’s public editor also (kind of) acknowledges:
Sulzbergers letter was released after the paper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, took the paper to task for its election coverage. She pointed out how its polling feature Upshot gave Hillary Clinton an 84 percent chance as voters went to the polls.
She compared stories that the paper ran about President-elect Donald Trump and Clinton, where the paper made Clinton look functional and organized and the Trump discombobulated.
Spayd wrote, “Readers are sending letters of complaint at a rapid rate. Here’s one that summed up the feelings succinctly, from Kathleen Casey of Houston: “Now, that the world has been upended and you are all, to a person, in a state of surprise and shock, you may want to consider whether you should change your focus from telling the reader what and how to think, and instead devote yourselves to finding out what the reader (and nonreaders) actually think.”
She wrote about another reader who asked that the paper should focus on the electorate instead of “pushing the limited agenda of your editors.”
“Please come down from your New York City skyscraper and join the rest of us.”
New York Post columnist and former Times reporter Michael Goodwin writes:
The Gray Lady feels the agony of political defeat — in her reputation and in her wallet.
After taking a beating almost as brutal as Hillary Clinton’s, the New York Times on Friday made an extraordinary appeal to its readers to stand by her. The publisher’s letter to subscribers was part apology and part defense of its campaign coverage, but the key takeaway was a pledge to do better.
Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. admitted the paper failed to appreciate Donald Trump’s appeal.
“After such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”
While insisting his staff had “reported on both candidates fairly,” he also vowed that the paper would “rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor.”
Ah, there’s the rub. Had the paper actually been fair to both candidates, it wouldn’t need to rededicate itself to honest reporting. And it wouldn’t have been totally blindsided by Trump’s victory.
Instead, because it demonized Trump from start to finish, it failed to realize he was onto something. And because the paper decided that Trump’s supporters were a rabble of racist rednecks and homophobes, it didn’t have a clue about what was happening in the lives of the Americans who elected the new president.