By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The progressive left takes to social media to battle with The New York Times

Maggie Haberman at the University of Louisville in 2023. Public domain photo by uoflphoto3.

Ask ordinary people whether they think The New York Times leans left, and nine out of 10 will tell you yes. The Times’ first public editor, Daniel Okrent, wrote a famous piece years ago with the headline “Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” His lead: “Of course it is.” The website Media Bias/Fact Check rates the Times as having a “slight to moderate liberal bias,” although it also assesses its factual accuracy as “high,” the second-highest rating. My own view is that the Times’ news judgment is shaped in part by its embrace of cultural liberalism, but that its day-to-day political coverage is timid and marred by both-sides-ism at a moment when the Republican Party has devolved into authoritarianism.

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Now let me tell you about Threads. The Meta-owned would-be replacement for Twitter/X is my main stop these days for short-form, text-based social media. And it is filled with progressives who deride the Times as blinded by pro-corporate bias and fealty to Donald Trump. My feed is bombarded with progressives (that is, people I would regard as being somewhere left of liberal) who proudly announce that they’re canceling their subscriptions because of some perceived breach of left-leaning orthodoxy. They were particularly apoplectic over a recent interview that executive editor Joe Kahn gave to Semafor in which Kahn said, among other things:

To say that the threats of democracy are so great that the media is going to abandon its central role as a source of impartial information to help people vote — that’s essentially saying that the news media should become a propaganda arm for a single candidate, because we prefer that candidate’s agenda.

I will grant you that Kahn’s performance was suboptimal (democracy is kind of important) but liberal critics of the Times lost their minds over it. It happened again this week when it was revealed that reporter Maggie Haberman, a longtime target of the left, had coordinated with Michael Cohen back when he was Trump’s goon so that she could make sure she’d get a quote in time for her deadline. As a result, Haberman came under brutal assault on Threads — and apparently on Twitter, too, as described by CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy:

The message Cohen sent Haberman said Trump had approved him responding to the Stormy Daniels allegations back in 2018. “Please start writing and I will call you soon,” Cohen wrote. Some on the left have twisted that message to assert it is proof that Haberman takes orders from the Trump campaign. Which as Mother Jones’ Clara Jeffrey pointed out is “patently insane.” As Jeffery explained, “Guys, texting with sources is how you get the inside dope and ‘start writing’ isn’t an order from Trump HQ, it’s like, start your process and I’ll maybe feed you something.”

In response to all this, I posted, “Threads is driving me back to the NYT.” And though I got some likes, I also got this response: “Hope that’s sarcasm.” It was not. I’ll go so far as to say that we know more about Trump because of Maggie Haberman than perhaps any other journalist, and that the Times is still a great paper, though deeply flawed. And no, I’m not canceling my subscription. I wouldn’t even consider it.

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2 Comments

  1. John Schwartz

    The NYT is far from perfect, but this is social contagion gone wild. And arguing about it is like trying to have a conversation with climate deniers, something I’ve got a lot of experience with. Motivated reasoning and the feeling of looking down from the moral high ground seem to have powerful endorphin-releasing effects.

  2. Wendy Murphey

    For me, it was the headlines and summaries. More and more, they look like clickbait. I’ve been an on and off subscriber anyway; I can’t afford all the subscriptions I’d like, so I change them around now and again.

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