How the New York Times helped Republicans win the House

“I get far more concerned with outlets like NYT and NPR than Fox or NY Post because they are far more influential with the ‘gettable middle and moderates.'”

NYT all too often at best presents a “both sides” picture when one of the sides is brazenly lying and the other is firmly backed by data and reason. And for a population conditioned by popular culture and sensational news media practices to thinking very simply and reactively about health and safety, they’re also going to be more comfortable believing the status quo.

I continue to be amazed at the apparent inability or unwillingness of journalists (especially but not exclusively at the NYT) to acknowledge their own influence on the world. They write as if they are disinterested observers merely reporting on events over which they have had no influence, and over whose coverage they had no choice; yet neither of these assumptions seems remotely plausible to me. Editors and journalists obviously have considerable discretion over what to cover (selection) — just look at the relative attention paid to Hillary Clinton’s email security and that of Jared and Ivanka not even a year later. I would argue, in fact, that almost any issue can be elevated to one of importance if the media chooses to focus on it, and almost any issue can relegated to insignificance if the media chooses to ignore it.

Salon, Paul Rosenberg, Contributor

He called it “mindblowing” to see the Times, “one of the chief purveyors of false/misleading ‘doomsday headlines’ about crime in NY & around country — now reporting on the electoral impact of their own deeply harmful journalism practices. And yet mentioning only other papers & ‘media.'”

Alec Karakatsanis, founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps, made a similar case after the California primary, specifically criticizing the Times‘  later-retitled story, “California Sends Democrats and the Nation a Message on Crime.” That article — based on two highly atypical, billionairefunded campaigns, and ignoring multiple others — was typical of the Times’ apparent impulse to shift the national narrative on crime rightward, regardless of evidence to the contrary

A prime example cited in his thread was a screen-cap of the story headlined,  “They Wanted to Roll Back Tough-on-Crime Policies. Then Violent Crime Surged,” with this comment:

Doesn’t matter what nuance this @nytimes article might’ve brought. Most people. don’t read beyond headlines. So most people thought “progressive prosecutors” led to a “surge” in “violent crime.” 

Fact: Any increases & far more decreases occurred *everywhere.* 2 lies in 1 headline.


It wasn’t just the Times’ crime coverage that was deeply skewed to favor Republicans. Its obsessively inflation-focused coverage of the economy (again, certainly not alone) was similarly perverse, and also highly consequential.

Why did we spend the past year or so reading daily stories about record high inflation but only occasional mention of record low unemployment?” Watts asked. “Both stories were true, but only one got consistent traction.” These two “Democrats in charge, situation out of control” narratives may have been custom-built in the Fox News ecosystem, but the Times eagerly gobbled them up and amplified them across the political spectrum, crowding out contrasting narratives in the process.

In fact, inflation has been a worldwide problem, with the U.S. rate below the average among developed nations, so, as with crime, the dominant narrative has no grounding in plausible causal relationships. Did Democratic spending have an inflationary impact*? Maybe the stimulus checks did — but they didn’t cause Germany to have higher inflation than the U.S. As for the Child Tax Credit, which cut child poverty by 30%, its effect was minimal.

“In short,” Baker concluded, “the media decided that we had a terrible economy, and they were not going to let the data get in the way.”

As always with the New York Times, when you see articles like this, ask yourself: Why is this particular angle news? How did it get to the reporter and who pitched it? What is the goal of the article? How did they choose which voices to quote and which to ignore? Who benefits from framing the issue this way?

Continued: Salon, based on Columbia Journalism Review, 2016 Archives