NY Times home page full of more anti-Biden stories.The screenshot above is today’s installment in the New York Times’ all-hands-on-deck campaign to get Biden to withdraw.

I want to emphasize — again — that I do not object to news organizations’ taking a stand on a matter they consider important and then pushing their view relentlessly as advocates — in news articles and commentary alike. Advocacy journalism is vital, if it’s done ethically. This isn’t even close.

Advocacy journalism, done with integrity, requires transparency. The Times keeps pretending that it’s still an impartial conveyor of what people need to know. It is not on this matter, not even close, and it refuses to be transparent — not just about doing it, but crucially who’s giving the orders and what the motivations are. Shades of the 2016 Clinton emails saga, when the Times went on a wildly dishonest binge.

Advocacy journalism also requires context. In this case, the context is stark and scary: Trump is visibly deranged, and it’s accelerating. So are his stated plans — with the backing of one of the two major political parties (including its wholly owned Supreme Court) and an army of cultists — to create a fascist America.

The Times has been, for a long time, the nation’s most important news outlet. Other journalism organizations take the Times’ lead in what national news, notably politics, that they cover and publish. The Times has disproportionate clout, and has frequently abused it.

I beg the Times to redirect its advocacy, and soon — by relentlessly making clear to its own audience, and more broadly via its influence in journalism’s broader community — the emergency it has, so far, only discussed as just one more interesting topic among many. We are on the verge of the end of the American experiment. Obsess on that, please, before it’s too late.

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2 thoughts on “NY Times, how about obsessing on the dictatorship on our horizon?

  1. Dan, may I humbly suggest again “show, not tell”? That is, the front page should be this: (these stories) (these headlines) (these lead paragraphs), etc. You’ve criticized me for not proposing specific alternatives of general strategy. But an alternate front page page seems like a much more concrete task. It could then be examined on its own merits.

    This connects to my concern over a purity spiral of it’s-an-emergency ratcheting all organizations to become Democratic Party shills. I’m voting for Biden, I think he’s been an excellent President – but wow, did he seem scarily impaired in the debate. And I’m hardly the only person scared – top Democrats aren’t all doing this for social media clout. How big a news story should this be? If the answer is anything with the flavor of (one joke, please) “FASCISM! HITLER! ORANGE MAN BAD!” – i.e. don’t cover it, because it might help Trump – or at least, always be sure to include an extensive amount of material that the opposition is the end of democracy – well, that’s a path which tends to go badly.

  2. Personally, I think newspapers are folly, a remnant of a remembered past steeped in hubris and nostalgia. I haven’t held a newspaper in my hands since the late 90s. I don’t like the way the ink rubs off on my fingers.

    Before the Internet and the World Wide Web rendered paper obsolete, newspapers served a vital function in free society. One newspaper could inform an entire family. Newspapers at the public library could inform dozens, even hundreds of people. Nowadays, newspapers travel from one set of blackened fingers into the recycle bin.

    I read the NYTimes when it was accessible online, but once it put up a paywall, I stopped reading it. I never considered buying a subscription. It is for-profit news, and I don’t appreciate the tone of for-profit news. It’s aloof, opinionated, simplistic and condescending. If it’s important news, I can find a better source than the NYTimes. For example, I can read the Associated Press.

    Joe Biden’s feeble mind is not important news. It’s not even news. It’s bullshit.

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