The NYT dislikes competition and wishes to use its long-term embedded and in-bed status with government to shut its competition down.
The NYT has even called for criminal prosecution of its own sources–and never once, to my knowledge, the prosecution of any one of those who have proven incorrect.
20th-Century-style “objective” journalism has largely failed. The idea at the time was that factors of name and status and responsibility would motivate institutions to reliably produce accurate reporting. Academics and others could then cite sources that could be regarded in a rough and practical way as “factual” because the source had a vested interest in being reliable.
This fails increasingly as incomes and wealth become unequally distributed; this happens because institutional motivation coincides more and more with sources of money and because these sources ally themselves with power. As of 1989, when Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky brought out Manufacturing Consent, the NYT and similar papers already got some 60% of their money from advertising. I suspect that most of us will find the five filters that they name for news to be pretty self-explanatory, at least at the level of first approach:
- Owners (it has to please the boss)
- Advertisers (it has to please the money)
- Sources (Regular news comes from regular sources–government, military, business; if the source dislikes the treatment, it dries up)
- Flak (criticism by a vocal part of readership)
- Anticommunist ideology
This was at the end of the cold war. I suspect that we might substitute “imperialist ideology” or “neoliberal ideology” and be approximately accurate, but just ideology is probably the most universal.
Even at the apex of so-called “objective reporting,” objectivity was generally understood by practitioners to mean representing “both sides of the story,” which in American political reporting was generally taken to mean Republican and Democrat. At any point that official party lines strayed from the truth, then, objectivity was taken by the industry as a whole to mean self-imposed inaccuracy, whether by omission or other distortion.
Of course there were triumphs of reporting in which individuals stood on principle and convinced institutions to tell the truth, often despite risks. Of course, as incomes and power become more centralized, the market-driven and government-driven obstacles to honesty become greater, and the chances of successful opposition reduced.
It is very telling that the NYT wishes to characterize falsehood as something digital. Digital productions, as a whole, are under reduced sway by commodity markets because it does not cost as much to produce or distribute content digitally over a network as it does to print and deliver news or to film and broadcast. A small oligarchy can oversee monopolized information systems with relative ease. That is harder where one can write and not be rich. Cases of oligarchic reporting that we here are likely familiar with include the NYT cheerleading for invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 into 2003, including the oft-repeated lies around WMD and so forth. Another is the major news services taking copy from Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a mutual effort to sink the Sanders nomination this summer–and quite likely from the start of the campaign.
It is way past time to bury this notion that large or rich institutions produce accurate news. It is also past time to bury the idea that the apparent withholding of detail and belief and personality and context from reporting assures a reader of “objectivity” or accuracy. It is probably also time to bury the presumed primacy of the NYT and WaPo and CNN and (good heavens!) Fox and other institutions that play so unkindly on these antique notions.
The NYT wants to stop being scooped by the likes of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and Glen Greenwald and Wikileaks. The NYT wants to settle into a warm tub of Beltway approval. Thank goodness we no longer have to depend on the likes of them!