Adolph Ochs, former publisher of The New York Times, back in 1896 adopted the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” and insisted on reportage that lived up to that promise. That phrase appears in the upper left corner of the paper’s front page every day.
He might be appalled today to find that The Times, among other media, sometimes operates on the motto “All the News That Fits,” as some news media move steadily toward advocacy over objectivity.
We now find two major newspapers censoring conservative opinion on their opinion pages, where traditionally newspapers published a variety of editorial opinion in order to give their readers a diverse mixture. It’s the one place in a newspaper where opinion is appropriate.
The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer both had editors resign their positions recently because of staff objections to editorial decisions they made.
Several days ago, The New York Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, resigned following a revolt among employees over an op-ed the paper had requested from Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR, on George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Some of the staff called in sick one day in protest, and the paper said later that a review found the piece “did not meet its standards.”
Just a week later, however, the Times published an op-ed from a person who is a fellow at George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and who is a far-left activist. No editors resigned and no standards were violated.
The Floyd matter was at the center of another newspaper editor’s sudden departure. The Inquirer’s top editor resigned after his choice for a headline on an article addressing the mob violence which evolved from protests over Floyd’s death produced a revolt among employees.
Lamenting the senseless destruction and damage from the riots, Stan Wischnowski titled the article “Buildings Matter, Too.” The totally accurate headline was too much for the staff to swallow, so Wischnowski decided to step down.
The one place where opinions are proper in a newspaper — pages containing editorials and commentary — in those two papers now presents only that narrow set of politically biased ideas that have the approval of the newspaper staff. Ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely the opposite of what press freedom is all about.
An older tendency among news providers is for them to be politically guided in what they report and what they don’t. This tendency towards advocacy-over-objectivity is much more widespread than many realize. The reaction of the news staffs of the Times and Inquirer support that this journalistic breakdown exists.
However, such shenanigans are not limited to newspapers. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, said about President Donald Trump, “First, we were hearing that it’s [the coronavirus] a hoax...” referring to Trump’s describing the way the Democrats used the coronavirus. Tapper later admitted he knew it was a lie, but chose not to say anything. “I thought about it, because the president did not call the virus a hoax,” he said.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which the press is quick to throw out to defend against challenges to its work, guarantees the press the necessary freedom to do its job of telling the people what is going on. That is a very valuable thing, and a rare thing in our world.
But the freedom the press enjoys is accompanied by the essential obligation to do that job honestly, without fear or favor, accurately and objectively. When those things are missing from what the news media is doing, it has abandoned its press freedom protections.
The press is a very different animal today than in the days of the Bill of Rights, and now includes broadcast media and Internet media in addition to print media.
While online social media sites are not the same as news providers, they are extremely popular communication instruments. Ostensibly an open forum for participants to post and comment whatever they choose, some have begun to monitor and over-ride participants’ posts and comments. Sometimes that action is used for improper language. Sometimes it is used to censor undesirable political content.
MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin took a quote from Trump’s Fox News interview with Harris Faulkner out of context to make it look like Trump was approving of chokeholds. “Trump on Fox: ‘I think the concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect,’” he tweeted, making it appear that Trump condones chokeholds. He doesn’t.
Contrary to its policies that “catch” so many conservative tweeters, Twitter did not flag this lie.
There are many instances of such malpractice. Either you have an open forum that leaves people alone to express themselves as they choose, or you don’t.
If you do, no problem. If you don’t, you become a different animal, one which purports to be open, but which covertly censors only some users, and may thus be subject to legal action.
Why does the left cheat like this? Because it’s much easier to gain support for your ideas when there is only one set of ideas to choose from. Why confuse people with extraneous stuff?