Criticism of The New York Times

Criticism of The New York Times

In its long history, "The New York Times" has been the subject of criticism from a variety of sources. Some criticism has been aimed at the newspaper for its alleged liberal bias, while other criticism has been in response to controversial individual reporters.

Modern Controversies

Jayson Blair affair

In 2003, the "Times" admitted that Jayson Blair, one of its reporters, had committed repeated journalistic fraud over a span of several years. [cite web|url=|author=Dan Barry, David Barstow, Jonathan D. Glater, Adam Liptak and Jacques Steinberg|title="Correcting the Record: Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception"|publisher="The New York Times"|date=May 13 2003|accessdate = 2006-09-22] The general professionalism of the paper was questioned, though Blair immediately resigned following the incident. Questions of affirmative action in journalism were also raised, [cite web|url=|author=Kaus, Mickey|title="Affirmative retraction at the NYT" also titled "Keller in the Cellar?"|date=May 12 2003|publisher="Slate" online magazine|accessdate = 2006-09-24] [Shafer, Jack, "The Jayson Blair Project How did he bamboozle the New York Times?" "Pressbox" column, "Slate" online magazine, May 8 2003] [cite web|url=|author=Calame, Byron|title="Preventing a Second Jason Blair" ("The Public Editor" column)|date=June 18 2006|publisher="The New York Times"|accessdate = 2006-09-22] since Blair is black. The paper's top two editors – Howell Raines, the executive editor, and Gerald M. Boyd, managing editor – resigned their posts following the incident. [cite news|url=|title=Top New York Times editors quit|author=Arce, Rose and Shannon Troetel|date=2004-03-01|accessdate=2007-08-03]

Criticism of Bush administration and Iraq war

In October 2005, "Times" reporter Judith Miller was released from prison after 85 days, when she agreed to testify to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury after receiving a personal waiver, both on the phone and in writing, of her earlier confidential source agreement with Lewis "Scooter" Libby. No other reporter whose testimony had been sought in the case had received such a direct and particularized release. Her incarceration has helped fuel an effort in Congress to enact a federal shield law, comparable to the state shield laws which protect reporters in 31 of the 50 states. After her second appearance before the grand jury, Miller was released from her contempt of court finding. Miller resigned from the paper on November 9, 2005. [cite web|url=|author=Judith Miller|title="Judith Miller's Farewell"|date=2005-11-09|accessdate = 2006-11-04]

On December 16 2005, a "New York Times" article revealed that the Bush administration had ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept certain telephone conversations between suspected terrorists in the U.S. and those in other countries without first obtaining court warrants for the surveillance, apparently in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and without the knowledge or consent of the Congress. A federal judge recently held that the plan revealed by the "Times" was unconstitutional, and hearings have been held on this issue in Congress. The article noted that reporters and editors at the "Times" had known about the intelligence-gathering program for approximately a year but had, at the request of White House officials, delayed publication to conduct additional reporting. The Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine the sources of the classified information obtained by the "Times". The men who reported the stories, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006. [cite web|url=|author=Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism|title="2006 Pulitzer Prize Winners - NATIONAL REPORTING"|publisher="The Pulitzer Board"|date=2006|accessdate = 2006-11-04]
Much controversy was caused when, on June 23, 2006, The Times (along with the Wall Street Journal [cite web | title = 404 Not Found | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] , Washington Post Ciotation broken|date=September 2008 [cite web | title = Bank Records Secretly Tapped | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] and the Los Angeles Times [cite web | title = Los Angeles Times : Page Not Found | url=,0,6482687.story | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] ) revealed the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, a CIA/Department of Treasury scheme to access transactional database of the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication ("SWIFT"). In September 2006, the Belgian government declared that the SWIFT dealings with U.S. government authorities were, in fact, a breach of Belgian and European privacy laws. [Cite news
title=Belgians Say Banking Group Broke European Rules in Giving Data to U.S
author=Dan Bilefsky, Eric Lichtblau
date=29 September 2006
publisher=The New York Times

On December 22, 2006 at the request of the Bush Administration, the paper removed sections of an Op-Ed piece critical of the administration's policy towards Iran which contained publicly available information that Iran cooperated after the 9/11 attacks and offered to negotiate a diplomatic settlement in 2003. [cite web|url=|author=Democracy Now, Headlines|title="NYT Publishes White House-Redacted Op-Ed Critical of Iran Policy"|date=December 22 2006|publisher="Democracy Now"|accessdate = 2006-12-22] ad controversy

On Monday, September 10, 2007, the "Times" ran a full-page advertisement for questioning the integrity of General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, entitled “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” The Times only charged, a liberal activist group, $65,000 for the advertisement that, according to public relations director Abbe Serphos, normally costs around $181,692, or roughly a 64% discount. Serphos declined to explain the discount. [cite web | title = TIMES GIVES LEFTIES A HEFTY DISCOUNT FOR BETRAY US AD - New York Post | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ]

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis denied the rate charged indicated a political bias and said it was the paper's policy not to disclose the rate paid by any advertiser. "We do not distinguish the advertising rates based on the political content of the ad," Mathis told Reuters. "The advertising folks did not see the content of the ad before the rate was quoted," she said, adding that there were over 30 different categories of ads with varying rates. Mathis confirmed the open rate for an ad of that size and type was around $181,000. Among reasons for lower rates are advertisers buying in bulk or taking a standby rate, she said. "There are many instances when we have published opinion advertisements that run counter to the stance we take on our own editorial pages," she said.

Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor who blogs on media at, said the key question for the Times was could any other political or advocacy group get the same rate under the same circumstances. "The quandary the Times gets stuck in is they don't want to admit you can buy an ad for that rate, no matter who you are," Jarvis said, noting that with print advertising revenues in decline newspapers generally did offer big discounts.

On a more general note, Jarvis said U.S. papers should emulate their counterparts in Britain where, for example, "The Guardian" makes no effort to hide its liberal stance. "In the U.S., I would argue newspapers should be more transparent and open about the views taken ... and the (New York) Times is liberal," he said. [cite news
author = Claudia Parsons
title = NY Times criticized for ad attacking top US general
publisher = Reuters
date = 2007-09-13
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-13

Advertising Age reported that "MoveOn bought its ad on a 'standby' basis, under which it can ask for a day and placement in the paper but doesn't get any guarantees." A subsequent full-page ad bought by Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani to rebut's original ad was purchased at the same standby rate. [] MoveOn later paid the "Times" the full rate once the newspaper publicly acknowledged that "an advertising sales representative made a mistake." [cite news
title=MoveOn to Pay Full Times Ad Rate
author=Kate Phillips
date=23 September 2007
publisher=The New York Times

Corporate-influence concerns

In their book "", Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky analyze a variety of major U.S. media outlets, with an emphasis on the "Times". They conclude that a bias exists which is neither liberal nor conservative in nature, but aligned towards the interests of corporate conglomerates, which own most of these media outlets and also provide the majority of their advertising revenue. The authors explain that this bias functions in all sorts of ways: [cite web|url=|title=Manufacturing Consent: A Propaganda Model: excerpted from the book|accessdate = 2007-03-20]

" selection of topics, by distribution of concerns, by emphasis and framing of issues, by filtering of information, by bounding of debate within certain limits. They determine, they select, they shape, they control, they restrict — in order to serve the interests of dominant, elite groups in the society."cite web|url=|title=Excerpts from Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky interviewed by various interviewers|accessdate = 2006-07-19]

Chomsky and Herman also touch on the specific importance this perceived bias has in the "Times", saying:

"...history is what appears in "The New York Times" archives; the place where people will go to find out what happened is "The New York Times". Therefore it's extremely important if history is going to be shaped in an appropriate way, that certain things appear, certain things not appear, certain questions be asked, other questions be ignored, and that issues be framed in a particular fashion."cite web|url=|title=Excerpts from Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky interviewed by various interviewers|accessdate = 2006-07-19]

Duke University lacrosse case reporting

In their 2007 book "Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Case", KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. sharply criticize The New York Times for their editorial judgment and its effect on the case investigation. It claims that the original reports by Joe Drape tended to exonerate the accused players, which contradicted Times' editorial stance. This led to Drape's quick dismissal and replacement by Duff Wilson who took a pro prosecution stance. Cite news
title=New Book Destroys Credibility of NYT's Duke Lacrosse 'Rape' Coverage
author=lay Waters
date=19 september 2007

Also coverning the case, sports writer Selena Roberts, made assertions, that "Something happened March 13." [] Furthermore, Roberts writes, “Players have been forced to give up their DNA, but to the dismay of investigators, none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.” Johnson points out that this statment was not true. The captains’ March 28, 2006 statement or examined the defense attorneys’ subsequent press conference both described the captains’ cooperation with police, occurred before she penned her column. The Times never ran a correction [] Later Roberts in an interview in the Big Lead said, "I wrote that a crime didn’t have to occur for us to inspect the irrefutable evidence of misogyny and race baiting that went on that night." []

Daniel Okrent, former Times ombudsman admitted to the bias in the Times coverage of the case. He said, "It was too delicious a story.It conformed too well to too many preconceived notions of too many in the press: white over black, rich over poor, athletes over non-athletes, men over women, educated over non-educated. Wow. That's a package of sins that really fit the preconceptions of a lot of us." []

John McCain-lobbyist article criticism

The February 21, 2008 "The New York Times" published an article on John McCain's alleged relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman and other involvement with special interest groups. [cite news | title = For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk - New York Times | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] The article received a widespread criticism among both liberals and conservatives, McCain supporters and non-supporters as well as talk radio personalities. Robert S. Bennett, whom McCain had hired to represent him in this matter, defended McCain's character. Bennett, who was the special investigator during the Keating Five scandal that "The Times" revisited in the article, said that he fully investigated McCain back then and suggested to the Senate Ethics Committee to not pursue charges against McCain.

"And if there is one thing I am absolutely confident of, it is John McCain is an honest and honest man. I recommended to the Senate Ethics Committee that he be cut out of the case, that there was no evidence against him, and I think for the New York Times to dig this up just shows that Senator McCain's public statement about this is correct. It's a smear job. I'm sorry. " [cite web | title = Bob Bennett Reacts to New York Times Story on John McCain | url=,2933,331651,00.html| accessdate = 2008-02-25 | date = 2008-02-21 |publisher = Fox News Channell |author = Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes ]

Former staffer to President Bill Clinton and current Hillary Clinton supporter Lanny Davis said the article "had no merit." Stating that he did not support McCain's bid for the White House, Davis, who had himself lobbied for the same cause Iseman lobbied McCain for, said that McCain only wrote a letter to the FCC to ask them to "act soon" and refused to write a letter that supported the sale of the television station the article talked about. [cite news | title = McCain disputes report of lobbyist relationship | url=| accessdate = 2008-02-25 | date = 2008-02-22 |publisher = The Washington Times| author = Ralph Z. Hallow and Jennifer Harper ] Journalistic observers also criticized the article, albeit in a milder language. Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, suggested that the article does not make clear the nature of McCain's alleged "inappropriate" behavior: "The phrasing is just too vague." [cite web | title = Sign Up | url=,1,2442135.story?page=2&cset=true&ctrack=8 | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] The article was later criticized by the White House [cite web | title = The Associated Press: White House Accuses NYT of Anti-GOP Bias | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] and by several news organizations including the "San Francisco Chronicle" editorial board. [cite web | title = Follow the innuendo | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] Commentator Bill O'Reilly raised the question about why the paper had endorsed McCain on January 25, 2008 for the Republican nomination if they had information that alleged an inappropriate relationship. [ cite web| url =,2933,331867,00.html | title = Did The New York Times Smear John McCain? | date = 2008-02-22 | author = Bill O'Reilly | publisher = Fox News Channel ] The "Boston Globe", owned by the "Times", declined to publish the story, choosing instead to run a version of the same story written by the competing Washington Post staff. That version focused almost exclusively on the pervasive presence of lobbyists in McCain's campaign and did not mention the sexual relationship that the Times article hinted at. [cite web | title = Top of the Ticket : Los Angeles Times : Boston Globe declines to publish parent paper's McCain story | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ]

In response to the criticism, the "Times" editor Bill Keller was "surprised by the volume" and "by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision [to publish the article] ". [cite web | title = Howard Kurtz - N.Y. Times' Editor Bill Keller Responds to McCain Flap - | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ] The diverse sentiments by the readers were summarized in a separate article by Clark Hoyt, the "Times" public editor, who concluded: "I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed." [cite news | title = What That McCain Article Didnt Say - New York Times | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-24 | year = 2008 ]

In September 2008, a McCain senior aide (Steven Schmidt) charged: "Whatever The New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day impugns the McCain campaign, attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin. ... Everything that is read in The New York Times that attacks this campaign should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective." Leading Jonah Goldberg to opine: "The New York Times doesn't owe fairness to McCain, it owes accuracy to its readers. Fairness to McCain would simply be a happy byproduct of that accuracy." [ [ Gray Lady Dons a Cheerleader Skirt] by Jonah Goldberg] Later in September 2008, The New York Times once again published an article on John McCain's ties to lobbyists, this time of the Indian gaming lobby. The authors state in the article, possibly in an attempt to minimize reactions similar to those created by the February 2008 article, that it was based on "70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents". [cite web| title = McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry | url= | accessdate = 2008-09-28 | author=Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr. |publisher=The New York Times |date=2008-09-27 ]

Public editor's views

In summer 2004, "The New York Times"' then public editor or ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, wrote a piece with the title "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?". [cite web|url=|author=Okrent, Daniel|title="Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" (Public Editor column)|date=2004-07-25|accessdate = 2006-09-24|publisher=The New York Times] The piece started with the pithy summary: "Of course it is." His piece concluded that the "Times" did have a liberal bias in coverage of certain social issues, gay marriage being the example he used. He claimed that this bias reflected the paper's cosmopolitanism, which arose naturally from its roots as a hometown paper of New York City.

Okrent also noted that the paper's coverage of the Iraq war was, among other things, insufficiently critical of the George W. Bush administration.

ee also

*Media bias
*"Journalistic Fraud, "a book written by Bob Kohn alleging bias in the hard news pages of "The Times".
* Opinions of "The Times"' alleged bias by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly
*Jayson Blair
*Karen Arenson
*Walter Duranty
*Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
*United States journalism scandals


External links

*" [ The New York Times on the Web] "
* [ Official history of the Times]
*Daniel Okrent, " [ THE PUBLIC EDITOR; Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?] " "New York Times", July 25 2004

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