NYT not equal to Fox

March 28th, 2016 at 8:44 am

President Obama makes some insightful comments in this piece about the toxic interaction between saturation political media and the terrible quality of the presidential campaign.

He definitely misspoke here, however:

“Some people are just watching Fox News; some people are just reading the New York Times,” Obama said in January during a YouTube interview...“They almost occupy two different realities in terms of how they see the world.”

No question, these two outlets provide different views of the world, but one must be careful not to be drawn to the mushy muddle of false equivalence. The “terms” by which the NYT “see[s] the world” are much less ideological and more fact-based than those of Fox News. Yes, the Times editorial page has an unabashed liberal ideology, but there, too, the arguments are invariably rooted in fact.

There’s also little equivalence between the D and R candidates in this context (to be clear, the article does not suggest that there is). Though every candidate from time immemorial will bend, if not break, the facts, Clinton and Sanders have of course been far more substantive and accurate than their counterparts in the other party.

As far as the role of the media, surely part of what’s going on is in the age of social media, with such deep outlet proliferation, there’s a huge collective action problem that wasn’t there before. The tonier outlets might well be happy not to get into the mud where Trump et al. are most comfortable. But let us not forget that these folks are in the eyeballs biz, and if everyone else is talking about what’s deep in the mud, they can’t afford not to.

The only way to solve collective action problems of this magnitude is through collective agreement on the supply side, which of course would be impossible if not un-Constitutional. The only answer is then on the demand side. Perhaps when enough of us become disgusted enough by the quality of debate to eschew the messengers, those messengers will lift their games.

[I loved the reference to the late Robin Toner at the end of the piece. I’ve missed her calm, sage voice for years, but never more than now.]

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2 comments in reply to "NYT not equal to Fox"

  1. Smith says:

    Supply side not actionable? Ahh no way, the FCC used to have something called the Fairness doctrine, which got overturned because of supposed competition. Networks and cable producers loved it, enjoying their new found freedom to rake in profits by destroying a bias towards unbiased news. The three main points to consider:
    1) Television used to be more obligated to provide news as a public service to justify their possession of limited public airwaves, bandwidth, which constrained the news as entertainment profit making enterprise.
    2) Television also was required to provide equal access for free to opinions, which constrained the type of bias and echo chamber media seen today.
    3) Television news ate into the newspaper business, though not was severely as the internet induced death of classified advertising and free news access did. The prominence of network cable news, though much eroded, still dwarfs anything hard copy news enjoys. (compare monthly unique visitors of New York Times, USA Today, to Good Morning America viewers, etc, the Times might win, but the influence still rests in video, except for millennials)
    Also, there is a serious question whether the Times is really unbiased, or it’s just their bias is towards centrism, the establishment, decorum, lending a false sense of objectivity. Example: The Times’ own public editor has already more than once discussed the paper’s slanted coverage of the Sanders candidacy, admitting fault to various degrees.
    Restore previous regulations.

  2. Amateur says:

    Lately the NYT has gone off the rails. So too has the Huffington Post. They’ve gone off not on ideology but on a mission, a goal, an intentional campaign of distorted information.

    It isn’t quite Fox News, but it has approached it lately. The word is not really ‘Liberal’, the word is ‘Democrat’.

    I don’t know what a liberal is anymore. I don’t think it as much meaning anymore. Social liberalism means something, but economic liberalism is meaningless. So if the ideology of the NYT is the latter, perhaps this explains why it seems to be pretty nonsensical at this time.

    I agree with Obama’s statement.