Unfair Coverage of the Presidents

By: Mark Hyman

The New York Times drives the US news cycle.

Go to our website and see statements made by news organizations admitting they report or ignore issues by following the New York Times.  (See these comments below.)

With that as background, we analyzed how the New York Times covered George Bush and Barack Obama on two similar issues.

The Times relentlessly criticized Bush on what it refers to as torture. Operating the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. And water boarding.

Now water boarding may be unpleasant but no one dies or is injured. It’s not torture. If it were then there should be criminal charges rising from the 25,000 U.S. servicemen and women who’ve been water boarded as part of their POW training.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times has published about 200 articles, editorials and letters attacking Bush over torture.

It’s a different story regarding Obama and drone strikes that have killed thousands of suspected terrorists and civilians. Obama personally approves many drone strikes – including those that killed three Americans — one a teenage boy. Hundreds of innocent civilians — including women and children — killed in drone strikes are considered collateral damage.

In contrast to the 200 stories on Bush, the New York Times published less than a dozen on Obama. And some offered favorable coverage.

[Comments by numerous news leaders regarding how the New York Times drives their agency's news cycle:]

“The problem is that so many TV journalists simply don’t know what to think about certain issues until the New York Times and the Washington Post tell them what to think. Those big, important newspapers set the agenda that network news people follow.” Bernard Goldberg, Bias, p. 18.

“For better or worse, too many Washington correspondents must respond to people in New York or Atlanta without nearly as much news experience who take cues from the New York Times or Washington Post.” John King, CNN, March 15, 2001, Annenberg Public Policy Center panelist

“Even if you don’t read the Times yourself, you get your news from journalists at other media who do. The Times sets the news agenda that everyone else follows. The Washington Post and maybe one or two other papers also play this role, but even as a writer who appears in the Washington Post-a damned fine newspaper run by superb editors who are graced with every kind of brilliance, charm, and physical beauty– I would have to concede that the Times is more influential.” Michael Kinsley, Editor, Slate.com, Sympathy for the New York Times, May 21, 2003

“[I]t is the imprimatur of the Times or the Post that stamps the story as important before sending it back down to other papers-as well as up to the media gods of television.” Michael Kinsley, Editor, Slate.com, Sympathy for the New York Times, May 21, 2003

“The standard operating procedure at most publications-Slate included-is to commence the reporting of a new piece with a healthy Nexis dump, one that draws on the major dailies but especially from the Times.” Jack Shafer, The Same River Twice, Slate.com, December 16, 2003

“We all work here in Washington.We sort of look to the New York Times every day and the Washington Post and USA Today and CBS News and the networks to get our news and that’s what we think is important.” Vaughn Ververs, editor of National Journal’s The Hotline, December 3, 2004, Hotel Washington, Washington, DC03/05/13 Unfair Coverage of the Presidents

About The Author Mark Hyman:
Mark Hyman hosts "Behind the Headlines," a commentary program for Sinclair Broadcast Group.

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