In light of Bari Weiss' open letter to the New York Times, is the newspaper still a reliable news source?


Fact Box

  • Monday, July 13, Bari Weiss, writer for The New York Times, resigned from the newspaper in a “scathing letter” explaining her immediate leave.
  • Weiss stated, 'Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.”
  • The average weekday circulation of The New York Times was 443 thousand copies in 2019. This was a “significant drop” from over 959 thousand a decade earlier, and continues on a downward turn.
  • 21 percent of Americans believe The New York Times to be a credible source of news and information through its print and digital publications as of 2020. 
  • Established in 1851, The Times was a penny paper that would avoid sensationalism and report the news in a restrained and objective fashion.

Alexander (Yes)

The New York Times is as reliable as it's ever been. Bari Weiss's letter was a complaint due to receiving pushback for her views and editorial decisions, after a lifetime spent believing that articulating 'correct' political ideas (that is, opinions within the centrist mainstream) would shield her from any consequences. She didn't allege that the NYT falsifies information for ideological reasons, only that she didn't win every argument with her coworkers.

The so-called 'free speech debate,' which prompted it would be laughable if the context weren't so tragic. After all, one of the central points of contention regarding the NYT was Tom Cotton's 'Send in the troops' op-ed, which openly advocated using state violence to quash protests protected by the first amendment—a strategy which the Trump administration ultimately deployed. Anonymous federal personnel, perceived as kidnapping citizens off the streets without probable cause, seems to pose a much graver threat to Americans' actual first amendment rights—including the right to assemble freely without retaliation from the government—than ax emojis in private internal communication. Bari Weiss and her peers are silent when the government demonstrates its willingness to quash constitutionally protected speech with force and intentionally maim journalists. She and her friends are much more worried that their readers make fun of them on Twitter sometimes. 

Elizabeth (No)

When Bari Weiss, who seems to have been relatively universally liked before her departure, published her scathing resignation letter from the New York Times, it put the last nail in an already fairly securely closed coffin regarding the newspaper of record. The overriding theme of her letter twofold: the NYT doesn’t trust their readership is capable of reviewing an article (or multiple) before forming their opinions. And the newspaper has essentially declared itself the arbiter of what's right and fit to print based on its own agenda. 

The NYT delayed 19 days before reporting on the allegations against Biden by Tara Reade but only one day to distance itself from the Cotton op-ed due to staffers feeling 'unsafe” in its wake. This contention (of threatened safety when facing opposing opinions) is in itself insulting to any journalist in a truly dictatorial country who actually puts their own life at risk. Considering the fact that the NYT gives Hannah Nikole-Jones—outspokenly antagonistic toward Weiss—a platform for her much-criticized and historically dubious '1619 Project' is further evidence the paper is more motivated by a narrative than by the pursuit of objective truth. This has been a building issue, one that is clearly shown in a 2019 leaked transcript detailing how the NYT intends to present a narrative as opposed to providing info and allowing readers to form their own opinions. Even the ideologically neutral Media Bias and All Sides have given the Times 'left-center' and 'lean left' ratings based on its use of inflammatory words in articles and headlines. What makes this publication unreliable is not the fact that it has a viewpoint, but that while presenting their perspective, it feigns objectivity.

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