Useless Spayd Work
George Neumayr
by

During the summer of the 2016 campaign, the “public editor” for the New York Times, Liz Spayd, criticized the paper’s transparently unbalanced coverage. Even though the criticism was ventured hesitantly, it still rankled reporters. “Mostly I was met with a roll of the eyes,” she said about her attempts to ask reporters about the paper’s liberal bias. Nor did the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, want to hear about 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 wrote.

Spayd worried that the paper might become the “New Republic gone daily” and asked: “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.”

It wasn’t hard to imagine. Its conversion to liberal advocacy had happened a long time ago. It still pretended to be an “objective” newspaper — indeed, the ombudsman’s job is itself part of that pretense — but for all intents and purposes, it had become a publication of, by, and for liberals.

To the extent that the paper covered the “other” side, it did so out of anthropological interest for its liberal readers and a commitment to political resistance. After Trump’s victory, its publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, essentially admitted that the paper’s anthropologists of conservatism had failed to warn readers of the encroaching jungle. He promised readers that the paper would “rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism,” which included “striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.” In other words, the anthropological coverage of conservatism will increase.

Meanwhile, the reporters have made it clear to Spayd that they don’t need to change their attitude; she does. After she criticized their openly liberal tweeting habits in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News last week, they came down on her like a hammer. How dare she appear on “conservative” Fox and criticize them, they huffed. And their fury had its desired effect. Spayd has now “walked back” her criticism, according to The Hill. She said she failed to understand the “context” of the tweets. Her re-education has begun.

If anything, Trump’s victory will inspire the paper to be even more biased. Clearly, the reported spike in digital subscriptions to the paper reflects the expectation of liberals that the paper will double down on its opposition to all matters Trump. The CEO of the paper attributes the post-election spike to a demand for “independent journalism,” which is another euphemism for liberal opposition research masquerading as reporting.

Former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis once said that America needed a “new people.” That view remains popular at the paper. Reporters don’t fault themselves for failing to understand the electorate. They fault voters for failing to act on the media’s biased reporting. Peter Baker, the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief, has tweeted, “Real scandal isn’t what media didn’t report; it’s what it did & readers didn’t care,” while linking to an article by his wife, Susan Glasser, from a liberal publication. In the article, she complains about the disappearance of a liberal media monopoly.

“The bully pulpits, those of the press and the pols, have proliferated, and it’s hard not to feel as though we’re witnessing a sort of revolutionary chaos: the old centers of power have been torn down, but the new ones have neither the authority nor the legitimacy of those they’ve superseded,” she writes.

Says who? And what gave the old centers of power their authority and legitimacy? Such declarations amount to nothing more than the whining of liberals who have lost their unearned privileges. The “authority” and “legitimacy” of the left’s media monopoly rested not on wisdom, virtue, or any superior standards but upon the possession of raw power. They could define the terms of any discussion by virtue of that power, but now without it, they look like sputtering fools, throwing out terms like “fake news” and a “post-truth age” in a desperate attempt to retain their supposed superiority.

Spayd is a “public editor” at a paper that doesn’t want to hear from the public. It wants to propagandize them. As that becomes harder to do, owing to an abundance of alternatives, the paper’s reporters retreat into the liberal bubble even more. They huddle together and talk darkly of “threats to press freedom” and a “crisis in journalism.” But all this chatter amounts to is a glorified complaint about the diminution of their own power, which they wielded recklessly and lost justly.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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