Former executive editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson has a new book coming out called “Merchants of Truth” in which she sheds light on her high-profile, but brief, stint as one of the most powerful women in the news business. In chronicling her career as a journalist, however, Abramson takes some surprising shots at her former employers, accusing them of diluting the standard of objectivity by playing to their liberal audience.
“Though [Abramson’s successor, Dean] Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump,” Abramson wrote. “Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”
She said that by going this route, the Times was only hurting its own reputation. In a reference to publisher Adolph Ochs, she said: “The more anti-Trump the Times was perceived to be, the more it was mistrusted for being biased. Och’s vow to cover the news without fear or favor sounded like an impossible promise in such a polarized environment.”
It really wasn’t, of course. It was a perfectly reasonable standard that could have easily been achieved by any major newspaper willing to strive for it. The New York Times didn’t (and doesn’t) fail to be objective because they missed an impossible target. They failed because they made absolutely no attempt to be objective. They were so caught up in their own liberal bubble that they felt it was their duty to turn the paper into the Anti-Trump Daily. And, given the headlines that continue to smear the White House to this day, they have not yet realized what a tragic mistake that has been.
“Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated,” Abramson noted.
Yes, the Times has been richly rewarded for turning into the home for anti-Trump coverage. But what happens when Trump is out of office? What happens when the paper wants to go back to straight news coverage (if they ever do)? How can any reader trust them again?
There’s something to be said for living in the moment, but The New York Times has forever sullied its reputation by sinking into the political gutter for the last three years. In trying to destroy Trump, they’ve only sown the seeds for their own demise.