The New York Times considered it news the other day that Sean Hannity gives advice to Donald Trump, whom he has publicly and repeatedly endorsed. The tut-tutting tone of the piece, coming from a newspaper as baldly biased as the Times, is comic. The subtext of the column is that Hannity poses a threat to the canons of journalistic integrity. It is troubled that Hannity’s show “has all the trappings of traditional television news—the anchor desk, the graphics, and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.”
The Times sounded ready to call for federal regulations governing the use of anchor desks and graphics. It sees itself as the credentialing committee for journalists everywhere, even as it becomes more and more a left-wing political organization with the “trappings” of a traditional newspaper.
It is a newspaper of, by, and for liberals, yet the author of the column, Jim Rutenberg, acts like he is speaking from Olympian heights of neutrality. He writes, “Mr. Hannity told me his support for Mr. Trump makes him ‘more honest’ than mainstream reporters who hide their biases. It turns out even ‘honesty’ is a relative concept these days. For some people more than others.” Well, no one would know that better than the liberal partisans at the New York Times. As Jeff Lord points out, Rutenberg also ignores numerous examples of liberal editors and journalists who became Democrat advisers.
In a previous piece, Rutenberg, ever the sophisticated observer, just noticed that liberal reporters find it hard to cover Trump according to journalistic conventions. “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that,” he writes. “You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.” Uncomfortable territory? That’s been their exclusive beat for decades.
According to Rutenberg, the “most solemn duty” of political journalism is to “ferret out what the candidates will be like in the most powerful office in the world.” In other words, they report, they decide. In his Hannity column, he disapproved of departures from journalistic convention to help a Republican; in this column, he approves of departures from those same conventions to stop one. So it turns out that giving opinions behind an “anchor desk,” provided you hold the right ones, doesn’t shake the pillars of journalistic probity.
The Times feels entitled to play ombudsman to other media outlets while not listening to its own. In July, New York Times “public editor” Liz Spayd criticized the newspaper for its liberal bias. New to the job, she said that she had already been bombarded with complaints from conservatives and that the paper’s indifference to those complaints struck her as “poison.” She said that she had asked reporters about liberal bias at the paper and that “mostly I was met with a roll of the eyes.” Spayd referred to the comments section of the paper’s website as a “giant liberal echo chamber” and questioned the paper’s front-page editorial last December in favor of gun control.
When she asked executive editor Dean Baquet about the paper’s liberal bias, he denied it. “He doesn’t believe that the coverage on most days has a liberal cast, nor does he think campaign ads or the rare front-page editorial create that perception,” she says. Her hope is that the paper will address what she admits is a well-founded perception of bias, start covering more what happens between the “country’s coastlines,” and not “write off conservatives.” She ends on the note: “Imagine a country where the greatest, most powerful newsroom in the free world was viewed not as a voice that speaks to all but as one that has taken sides. Or has that already happened?”
Obviously, it has. And her advice will go unheeded. Unlike Sean Hannity, who openly discloses his bias, reporters at the paper pretend they don’t have one. They see “objectivity” and liberalism as one and the same and thus feel no need to cover the issues dispassionately. What discredited journalism was not the rise of conservative pundits but liberal propagandists who masquerade as reporters.
They continue to claim a monopoly on the “facts” but fewer and fewer people believe them, as the Times’s sagging circulation indicates. Spayd is worried that the Times might become the “New Republic gone daily.” But it already has. It long ago gave up on “all the news fit to print” and decided to print only “news,” such as the revelation that Sean Hannity wants Trump to win, fit for liberals.