The streets felt emptied Saturday afternoon, after the news broke that Bill Cunningham would no longer be out in them, taking photographs of people and their clothing. Cunningham died at the age of 87, apparently about as well as one could have hoped—quickly, after a stroke, less than three weeks after his last set of photos had run in the New York Times.
Last night, the New York Times reported on Iowa Congressman Steve King’s attempt to block the Obama administration from changing the face of the $20 bill from Andrew Jackson to the black abolitionist Harriet Tubman. At first glance, the piece reads as straightforward, workaday journalism. On closer inspection, however, it reveals a few of the paper of record’s most entrenched pathologies.
One of the difficulties the mainstream press has faced in covering the Donald Trump campaign is that Trump is a ceaseless and aggressive liar. The traditional etiquette standards known as “objective journalism” discourage media outlets from pointing out that a politician’s message is contrary to known facts—to do so seems like taking sides, or, God forbid, expressing an opinion.
The demises of Ted Cruz and John Kasich’s primary campaigns almost certainly assure, in the absence of some intervening event or act of God, that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. More importantly, they present the opportunity to recall which political commentators insisted that Trump could never, ever be the nominee. Dozens and dozens (and dozens) of people got Trump’s chances wrong, but if you were to identify the wrongest commentator, you would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than New York Times’ columnist and National Review film critic Ross Douthat.
When it comes to reporting on the sexual preferences of public figures, the New York Times has a long history of dancing around the subject, often to the point of absurdity. While the paper has no written policy against outing gay public figures who would prefer to keep their sexual identities private, it has taken a very conservative approach to the subject over the years, and has in fact loudly denounced outlets, like Gawker, that have followed a different set of rules. Which is why a recent report in the Times about corporate goings-on at Disney caught my eye: It blithely, and without further context, published a claim that IAC chairman Barry Diller is “a homosexual.”
The New York Times has quietly (and extensively) revised a history of Senator Bernie Sanders’ legislative accomplishments, initially published on Monday morning under the glowing headline, “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years via Legislative Side Door,” which eventually became the far more reserved “Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories” and, in print, the even more ambivalent “Sanders’s Roster of Modest Wins.”