One-sided reportage from the New York Times | Stephen M. Walt

All media reporting is subjective.  Stephen Walt points out an instance in which one of the most reputable newspapers–and one that aspires to being the “paper of record” as well as a national resource–may have gotten it wrong:

There were two fundamental problems with this piece.  The first is that it is almost certainly wrong.  Netanyahu is going to get re-elected anyway, so he hardly needs to curry favor with Obama.  …

The second problem with the article were the sources on which Cooper and Landler relied.   The article quotes four people: Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, Aaron David Miller, and Robert Malley.  All four are former U.S. officials with long experience working on U.S. Middle East policy, and mainstream reporters like Cooper and Landler consult them all the time.   There are some differences among the four, but all share a powerful attachment to Israel and both Ross and Indyk have worked for key organizations in the Israel lobby.

via One-sided reportage from the New York Times | Stephen M. Walt.


5 thoughts on “One-sided reportage from the New York Times | Stephen M. Walt”

  1. I’m not going to argue with Mr. Walt’s analysis, but I will point out that, even with mistakes like this, the Times is still one of the most trustworthy and thorough sources for international news. Their pieces are normally very high quality. It is disconcerting, though, to notice the evidences of bias (and maybe laziness?) that Mr. Walt points out. Who–besides someone like a Harvard professor of international relations–would have taken issue with the Times’ sources for the article? Even the average reader of the Times isn’t going to think twice about sources, unless reporters start relying on Jay-Z and Al Sharpton for analysis. This is all part of the larger issue of media bias. Conservatives claim that the media is controlled by left-wing fanatics. Liberals argue that conservatives actually have a broader media base ( Fox News, daily radio programs, the Drudge Report, conservative blogs, Glenn Beck, and so on. But who tunes into these programs? Who reads these blogs? Conservatives are largely preaching to the choir. Liberals, though, are much more mainstream. Media doesn’t just include the nightly news and big-time newspapers. Most people aren’t going to read the New York Times or listen to NPR, but they will spend hours a day watching whatever Hollywood puts on their TV screen or ipod. When Oprah speaks, or when Beyonce talks, people notice. So why I completely agree with Mr. Walt, in the big scheme of things, quoting Martin Indyk instead of Charles Manekin is a marginal concern.

  2. I am reminded of Stephen Colbert when he said, somewhat sarcastically, “we all know that reality has a left-wing bias.” I appreciate Dallin’s comments, and believe that his argument is well-measured and mostly accurate. However, I disagree that the “lamestream liberal media” (as our favorite politician Sarah Palin calls any media that publishes something she doesn’t want to hear) is much more mainstream than so-called conservative media (media outlets such as Fox News, the Drudge Report etc…). Fox News has long been the dominant cable-news outlet, with a poll in 2011 ranking them as the second-most trusted television news network (behind PBS of all things). It is not difficult for American conservatives to find media that reinforces their political beliefs (and the same be said for liberals).

    Having said that, I agree with Dallin that it hardly matters whether the NY Times quote Martin Indyk or Charles Manekin. One article does not a bias make.

  3. The media, whether accredited or not, makes mistakes. These “mistakes,” often called “biases,” skew the plain truth. This is not a new idea, though. If we want to be informed, we have to use many news sources. Even then, by searching for the common denominator of truth in all of the media outlets we use, we can still be misinformed. While this is unfortunate, it is true. News is not always news; news is entertainment. What is interesting or agreeable is reported.

    The following article highlights the media twists of the Petraeus scandal. This is a more mathmatical look at how media distorts their facts.

  4. If news is just entertainment, then what information do our politicians rely on to make decisions? Where are they getting there news from? Is it biased, or in your vernacular: spotted with mistakes? There has to be the full story somewhere. Look at the recent attack on the US embassy in Libya. First it was a terrorist attack, then it wasn’t, then it was a few people attacking, and then it was fifty. What is the truth? Who can we rely on?

    I don’t know who to listen to in the case of Libya, but Glen Beck kept a discussion going about for a least a week.

  5. I think the take-away point from this is that finding and giving non-biased information is really hard. You have to examine your sources, where they get their information, the way that they see events and how their view could spin the information they give you. You have to be aware of your own biases and take them into account as well. Is it really possible to remove every last hint of bias? Bias will be found in every news source. To illustrate this, here is a link to a page that has a ranking system of media bias:

    Now that you’ve looked, how biased was that source?

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