All the News that’s Fit to Print?

All the News that’s Fit to Print?

© David Burton 2016

The New York Times

     More than one hundred years ago - in 1897 - perhaps the most famous seven words in American journalism — “All the news that’s fit to print” — appeared in the upper left corner of the New York Times masthead. It signified the standard of impartiality, honest journalism and journalistic excellence that could be expected from one of the world’s leading newspapers. The phrase was often associated with fairness, restraint, and impartiality. Today, those seven words are, at best, hypocritical and constitute a joke and a reproach when applied to the New York Times.

     Since those famous words first appeared in the Times masthead, the quality and credibility of the reporting in the New York Times has continually deteriorated over the years and, along with it, the paper’s impartiality.

     One example of incredibly bad reporting by theTimes is attributable to the New York Times correspondent, Herbert L. Mathews, who wrote about Fidel Castro prior to his rise to power in Cuba and his subsequent imposition of a repressive communist dictatorship upon that island country. Mathews swallowed Castro’s exaggerated tall tales of non-existent military forces when Castro was hiding from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the Sierra Maestra region of Cuba. Mathews “regurgitated {Castro’s propaganda} on nothing less than the front page of the New York Times. He wrote that the ‘hero of Cuban youth’ was ‘alive and fighting hard and successfully’ for a ‘new deal for Cuba’ that was ‘radical, democratic and therefore anti-communist’. [Emphasis mine] Batista had lifted censorship temporarily, so the stories were reprinted in Cuba, where they caused a sensation. Cubans had been told more than once that Castro had been killed. Now they learned that ‘Senor Castro,’ ‘a man of ideals, courage, and remarkable qualities of leadership,’ already had ‘mastery of the Sierra Maestra’ and that ‘General Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt.’ Mathews’s claims were overblown, but they would become a self-fulfilling prophecy – the latest demonstration of the growing, and sometimes decisive, influence of ‘information operations’ in modern guerilla warfare.” (Ref. 1)

     The Times has touted itself as an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence and unselfishly devoted to the public welfare. "The paper's independence, however, and the century-long accretion of influence and wealth by the owners, has been contingent on their defining public welfare in a manner acceptable to their elite audience and advertisers. In the 1993 debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, the Times was aggressively supportive of the agreement, and solicited its advertisers to participate in advertorials with a letter touting the ‘central importance ... of this important cause’ and the need to educate the public on NAFTA's merits, which polls showed that most citizens failed to appreciate. As the paper regularly takes positions on domestic and foreign policy issues within parameters acceptable to business and political elites, it is evident that the owners have failed to escape class, if not selfish, interests in defining public welfare and what's fit to print.
     “In debates within the range of elite opinion, moreover, the Times has not been ‘fearless,’ even in the face of gross outrages against law, morality, and the general interest. During the McCarthy era, for example, the management buckled under to the Eastland Committee by firing former communist employees, who spoke freely to management but would not inform on others, and more generally it failed to oppose the witch hunt with vigor and on the basis of principle. . . .
      - - -
     “James Reston, the Times's most famous reporter, was on close terms with a string of presidents and secretaries of state, but in the strange mores of U.S. journalism, the resultant compromised character of his reporting did not diminish his professional standing. Bruce Cumings, writing about Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1950, states that ‘Acheson vented his ideas through our newspaper of record, James Reston's lips moving but Dean Acheson speaking.’ . . .
     “As the Reston story suggests, the most common pattern of serving the political establishment is not by directly telling lies, but rather by omission, and by letting officials tell lies that remain uncorrected. {Harrison} Salisbury describes the internal debate over how far the paper should go in accommodating propaganda, the upshot of which was that the Times would ‘leave things out of the paper,’ or would publish statements known to be false if U.S. officials ‘were willing to take responsibility for their statements.’ What the Times would not do is publish unattributed lies. This is the high principle underlying news fit to print.
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     “The Times has attracted many quality reporters over the years. But power at the paper still flows down from the top, affecting hiring, firing, promotion, assignments, and what reporters can do on particular assignments. . . . In writing on topics on which the Times has an ideological position and policy, 'like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict', or Russia and its ‘reform’ process, or health care reform and the Social Security ‘crisis,’ the reporters all toe a party line, which either comes naturally to them or to which they adapt. . . .
     “In short, reporters are underlings, and in an establishment paper like the Times they will report within an establishment framework or leave. [Emphasis mine] . . . “ (Ref. 2)

     “New York Times journalists are extremely protective of their newspaper’s reputation as the ‘paper of record.’ So when faced with criticism of their reporting or accusations of journalistic bias, they tend to reject it, discrediting their critics as insignificant right-wingers.
     “Last year {2012}, for example, former New York Times correspondent Neil Lewis wrote a lengthy piece for the Columbia Journalism Review on ‘The Times and the Jews,’ discounting criticism of the newspaper’s Palestinian-Israeli coverage as ‘ill-founded,’ ‘toxic’ and ‘based on misunderstandings of journalism.’ He marginalized the critics as likely to come from a small group of Orthodox Jews who support Israeli right-wing policies condemned by the majority of American supporters of Israel. Such critics, he insisted, ‘can easily find what seem to them errors in emphasis or tone on any individual article.’ But any fair analysis should view coverage ‘as part of a larger thematic narrative.’
     “Well, the results of just that sort of fair analysis were recently released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA). And they provide detailed evidence that exposes the newspaper’s biased coverage and disproves Lewis’ dismissive arguments. [Emphasis mine]
     “CAMERA is a media-monitoring organization whose 65,000 members represent a wide cross-section of the American public -- Jews and non-Jews, secular and orthodox, liberal and conservative -- motivated by the desire to see accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The study, ‘Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,’ empirically examines coverage over an extended period of time, July 1-Dec. 31, 2011, and finds a ‘larger thematic narrative’ of continued, embedded indictment of Israel that pervades both the news and commentary sections of the newspaper.
     “On the news pages, where readers expect objective and balanced reporting, criticism of Israel was cited more than twice as often as criticism of the Palestinians. The Palestinian perspective on the peace process was laid out nearly twice as often as the Israeli perspective. Vandalism by a fringe Israeli group and IDF military defensive strikes were emphasized in numerous articles, often with headlines highlighting Israeli actions, while Palestinian aggression and incitement was downplayed or ignored. Israel's blockade of Gaza was usually mentioned without context. And Israel’s resort to force aboard a Turkish ship attempting to break the blockade was frequently discussed and faulted without referencing the precipitating attacks on Israeli soldiers by pro- Palestinian activists.
     “The theme of faulting Israel was amplified on the editorial and op-ed pages to one of Israel as a malignant force in the region. Despite the newspaper’s purported commitment to expose a diversity of opinions, three quarters of all opinion pieces on the conflict were devoted to denouncing Israel’s leaders or policies, while none were devoted to condemning Palestinians. Even Israel’s tolerance toward gays was condemned as a ploy to support human rights abuses against Palestinians. [Emphasis mine]
     “Consider the following: When a group of Israeli teenagers were arrested in August 2012 for beating an Arab youth unconscious, The New York Times ran two separate front-page, above-fold articles about it. Both articles focused on the negative features of Israeli society that the incident was said to reveal.
     “Contrast that with the Times’ coverage, 17 months earlier, of an assault by Palestinian teenagers on an Israeli family. The victims, including three young children, were brutally slaughtered in a bloody attack that included slitting the throat of a 3-month old as she lay asleep in her crib. The New York Times chose not to cover that gruesome event on the front page, nor to comment on what the incident reveals about Palestinian society and the pernicious effects of incitement to kill Israelis by the Palestinian leadership.
      - - -
     “{This} follows a long history of similar distortions, dating back to the1930's when The New York Times downplayed the Nazi persecution, and later, genocide of European Jews in order to avoid being seen as a ‘Jewish’ newspaper. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “CAMERA’s study provides objective documentation that demonstrates exactly how The New York Times abandoned journalistic standards to turn coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into the supposedly ‘progressive’ cause of indicting Israel.” (Ref. 3) So much for journalistic fairness, restraint, impartiality, and integrity!

     In his book, Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America, author William McGowan writes that The New York Times, which was once considered the gold standard in American journalism and the most trusted news organization in America, today is generally understood to be a vehicle for politically correct ideologies, tattered liberal pieties, and a repeated victim of journalistic scandal and institutional embarrassment.

     In his book, McGowan asks who is responsible for squandering the finest legacy in American journalism and exposes the Times’ obsessions with diversity, “soft” pop cultural news, and a countercultural Vietnam-era attitude. These trends have set America’s once-most important news icon at odds with its journalistic mission — and with the values and perspectives of much of mainstream America. The New York Times no longer publishes “all the news that’s fit to print”. Instead, it publishes what is on its owners’ agenda and what they perceive to be “any news that will sell more newspapers” – a very sad commentary about a once-great newspaper.

     In another article decrying the blatantly biased reporting of news, we read that, “The New York Times has become the official paper of Israel’s Western would-be eradicators. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “As in the 1930's, when the New York Times downplayed the Nazi genocide of European Jews in order to avoid being seen as a ‘Jewish’ newspaper, today Thomas Friedman, Roger Cohen (the dupe of Tehran) and Nicolas Kristof are the Jewish journalists who have been leading the charge in demonizing Israel and unabashedly praising the ‘Arab Spring’ and Iran's ‘pragmatism’.
      - - -
     “Every morning, opening the New York Times, the reader finds very accurate stuff about the Holocaust, the most extreme demonstration of Jewish powerlessness, (ignored and put on the back pages of the Times while it was taking place) along with opeds like that of Peter Beinart titled ‘To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements’.
      - - -
     “The New York Times’ avid PLO supporters and propagandists are the descendants of one of the most celebrated journalists of his time, the first New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner, Walter Duranty, who in the thirties fed the American public instantly-rewritten history of the famine in the Ukraine. By persuading the world that Stalin’s version of events was true, Duranty’s fairy tales cost thousands, if not millions, of lives.
     “The Times consistently ignores the genocidal anti-Semitism that governs Hamas and Hizbullah, described therein as ’militant’ groups concerned with the social welfare of Palestinians and Lebanese. The Times' articles from Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem and Bethlehem during the Second Intifada could have been written about the Taliban in the Afghan caves. These depicted the Palestinian terrorists as freedom fighters meeting their noble fate.
     “That favorable press in the New York Times encourages the Arabs to believe they can get away with murder is a given. By reinforcing the Islamic claim that those who died on the Temple Mount were martyred defenders of holy places, mowed down by savage, unprovoked Israeli authorities, the New York Times also helped inflame millions of Muslims against Israel. By calling the area ‘Muslim compound’ and omitting any mention of the Temple Mount or its Jewish connection, the New York Times convinced the world that Ariel Sharon had intruded upon a site holy solely to Islam, helping to trigger the second Intifada.
     “As the latest Levine's oped shows, the New York Times is a crypto-Nazi publication whose message is, plain and simple, “Jews, go home, again”. There is a Klezmer festival in Krakow this year.” (Ref. 4)

     The abysmal quality of the writing that appears on the pages of the New York Times is just one more example of the “Deteriorating Journalism” here in the United States.

     Unfortunately, we “ have journalists that have become the mouthpieces for East Coast white liberals, where their news writing and coverage reflect the social and political interests of the cultural elite. Too often these journalists see their jobs as the fulfillment of the mass media role to educate the proletariat masses, empowering them to eventually seize political control from the ruling capitalist bourgeoisie. As Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online observed, "If the apocalypse were nigh, the (New York) Times would run a headline 'World to End Tomorrow: Women, Blacks in Peril.'" [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 5)

     The following are summarized excerpts from a scathing article illustrating the long and ongoing decline of the The New York Times. (Ref. 6) And the article only covers the period ending in August 2009 – considerably more bad newspaper journalism in the "paper of record" has followed since then.

  • In response to the ebbing support for ObamaCare, the New York Times attempted to come to the rescue, with a front page "news story" in which they attacked the idea that "ObamaCare" would lead to the creation of any "death panels". For the Times, it was not enough to try to undermine the fear of death panels, but to find villains for spreading such malicious falsehoods.
  • These days, the New York Times' "news" pages are indistinguishable from its editorial pages. All too often, news stories are not news, but stories created to shape the political debate, and use the Times' outsize influence to advance a point of view.
  • The New York Times has sunk to the level of shilling for President Obama, the liberal elite establishment and the Democratic Party.
  • The New York Times has been accused of libeling and defaming other newspapers such as the Washington Times that dared to present the issues concerning Obamacare in a more unbiased perspective. Libelous behavior, or defamation, requires that a story be false, known to be false, and malicious in its intent. That definition fit what the Times did in its description of the Washington Times reporting and editorializing on ObamaCare - the Washington Times being a paper far more scrupulous than the New York Times, in separating news from editorial content.
  • The lead author of the death panel story, Jim Rutenberg, has proven himself willing and able to prostrate himself in service to the political agenda of the New York Times. Rutenberg was the lead author for another front page New York Timeswhopper in 2008 - a fake story that slimed John McCain, insinuating that he had an affair with lobbyist Vicki Iselin, and was no more than your basic Congressional influence peddler.
  • The New York Times was once the most respected paper in America. Now it has become a paper in service to an agenda and a political party.
  1. Invisible Armies, Max Boot, Liveright Publishing Corporation, pages 436-437, Copyright 2013.
  2. All The News Fit To Print (Part I): Structure and Background of the New York Times, Edward S. Herman,
    Z magazine, April 1998.
  3. Study Indicts New York Times for Anti-Israel Bias, Ricki Hollander, PB MEDIA, 21 January 2013.
  4. Op-Ed: The New York Times is a Crypto-Nazi Paper, Giulio Meotti, Arutz Sheva, 13 March 2013.
  5. Deteriorating Journalism, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu, Article 141, 13 September 2012.
  6. New York Times' Disgrace Deepens, Richard Baehr, Real Clear Politics, 19 August 2009.

  18 March 2016 {Article 246; Undecided_46}    
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