Takedown of New York Times Rankles Reporters, Explains Biased Coverage

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December 15, 2023

In a scathing essay for the Economist published on Thursday, former New York Times opinion editor James Bennet took his old publication to task for the paper’s capitulation to left-leaning "illiberal" opinion.

According to Bennet, the Times and other media have "forfeited what had always been most valuable about their work: their credibility as arbiters of truth and brokers of ideas, which for more than a century, despite all of journalism’s flaws and failures, had been a bulwark of how Americans govern themselves."

He added:

Since Adolph Ochs bought the paper in 1896, one of the most inspiring things the Times has said about itself is that it does its work "without fear or favour". That is not true of the institution today – it cannot be, not when its journalists are afraid to trust readers with a mainstream conservative argument such as Cotton’s, and its leaders are afraid to say otherwise. As preoccupied as it is with the question of why so many Americans have lost trust in it, the Times is failing to face up to one crucial reason: that it has lost faith in Americans, too.

For now, to assert that the Times plays by the same rules it always has is to commit a hypocrisy that is transparent to conservatives, dangerous to liberals and bad for the country as a whole. It makes the Times too easy for conservatives to dismiss and too easy for progressives to believe. The reality is that the Times is becoming the publication through which America’s progressive elite talks to itself about an America that does not really exist.

Many of the Times's critics in the media were impressed by Bennet's comprehensive critique of the self-styled paper of record. But other journalists—like the New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose 1619 Project Bennet dinged in his essay—apparently felt attacked.

The Times’s publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, responded to Bennet's criticism of his leadership in a statement, saying, "I could not disagree more strongly with the false narrative he has constructed about the Times." Alluding to Bennet's ouster from the paper in June 2020 over the publication of an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Sulzberger wrote: "James was a valued partner, but where I parted ways with him is on how to deliver on these values. Principles alone are not enough. Execution matters. Leadership matters."

However, Bennet was correct that the Times no longer consistently reports the news "without fear or favour." On some of the biggest stories in recent years, the Times has let progressive ideology or partisan interests trump the facts.

The Times was a leading proponent of the liberal fan fiction that former President Donald Trump was compromised by Russia, including in a long read chronicling the supposed backstory like a crime novel.

The Times dismissed speculation—since backed by U.S. intelligence agencies—that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab as a conspiracy theory. In May 2021, the paper's COVID-19 reporter called the lab leak theory racist.

Then, there is the Times's coverage of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, which has roiled mainstream newsrooms. In keeping with the left-wing consensus, the paper has gone so far as to parrot Hamas talking points about the conflict, as when the Times in October rushed to report that Israel had bombed a hospital based on the terrorist group's lies.