The New York Times matters, even as newspapers continue their march to oblivion. Centuries of outstanding journalism tend to carry weight, so despite the fact that the paper has befouled itself with hypocrisy, dubious reporting, partisan bias and an inexcusable imbalance among its pundits, it nonetheless still functions as a news media role model and icon. The infuriating debate over whether the news media is overwhelmingly biased in its news coverage (that would be biased in favor of Democrats, progressives, and liberal policy objectives in case you haven’t picked up on it) has special importance now, as again we head into a Presidential election and most Americans—I hope?—would like to see the public’s opinions on the matter prevail, not the biases of journalists, operating through selective or slanted reporting
Last week’s Times investigative scoop that Marco Rubio and his wife had a combined 17 traffic citations since 1997 thus is important, not regarding Sen. Rubio, who is running for President. Though the Times still defends it—and that’s significant too—pretty much everyone else, Left, Right, and anywhere, has condemned the Rubio hit. The story told us nothing newsworthy about Rubio, but told us a lot about the Times, and perhaps whether the U.S. news media plans on placing its heavy thumb on our campaign scales…again.
The Times piece (“Rubios on the Road Have Drawn Unwanted Attention“) revealed that Rubio has averaged—The Horror!— nearly one traffic ticket every five years. By what logic did this qualify as information that the public needs to know about him in order to assess his fitness for the Presidency? More importantly, how could a story like this make it into a major daily without anyone in the process saying “Wait…you’re kidding, right? Four traffic tickets in 18 years and we are going to claim its a big deal? We’ll be laughed off the news stands!” And indeed the Times has been, but the fact that it didn’t see it coming tells us:
1. The New York Times is so eager to derail Republican challengers that its news judgment is shattered.
2. The Times assumes that its readers are as biased and virulently anti-Republican as it is, so it presumes that hit jobs on Republicans will be well-received, even idiotic hit jobs. In this case, it found that there are limits, even among its left-biased compatriots.
3. Somewhere, the paper’s staff has crossed the line from treating the Times’ societal role as journalistic—informing the public of the “news that’s fit to print”—to seeing its role as partisan warrior for progressive causes.
The question is whether the Times recognizes this. It required a complete failure of journalistic ethics—competence, fairness, responsibility, proportion—for the story to reach the paper’s pages. “A review of records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations” it begins—ooh, that sounds like a lot. I wonder…”Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13.”
Huh? So this is really about the fact that Rubio’s wife is a lousy driver? What’s the operative theory here? That since the Times has to pay attention to Bill Clinton as a political issue for Hillary, all spouses, even those who are not running around the world accepting money from corporations and foreign governments, must be scrutinized with similar concern, as in “You know, it sure looks like Bill Clinton is getting a lot of money from interests that will be lobbying Hillary, and on the other side of the spectrum, Mrs. Rubio has a heavy foot on the gas pedal?” Does the Times view those as equivalent concerns to the nation?
There are two ways of looking at this from a bias perspective. The Times’ defenders, who also are those who mock the idea that there is any such thing as liberal media bias—after all, what the news media writes seems absolutely correct and fair to them—argue that the Times proved its lack of bias by taking the lead on both the Hillary State Department e-mails revelations and the shady dealings of the Clinton Foundation. Weak. So let’s see, that means that the threshold for forcing the Times into casting doubts on the qualifications of a Democratic Presidential contender is violation of government policies, endangering security, and destroying evidence, and the threshold for a GOP contender is his judgment in marrying someone who doesn’t drive very well.
The other way of interpreting this is that having thrown a large wrench into Hillary Clinton’s “inevitable” ascension to the Presidency, the Times is frantic to “balance” things by finding something, anything, to impugn the Republican frontrunners. Thus, when it turns out that the Clintons were involved in the international soccer scandal, is revealed that the Clinton Foundation took money from ISIS and that Hillary has been extorting Monica Lewinsky, the Times will run its report that after extensive investigation, it has determines that Scott Walker’s wife has pulled the tags off of mattresses more than twice.
The side story to this was that the Washington Free Beacon claimed that it had traced the story to a Democratic opposition research outfit, suggestion that the Times was directly conspiring with pro-Hillary forces. The Times denied this, but does it matter? The most prestigious newspaper in the nation just proved that its anti-Republican bias is so virulent and entrenched that it couldn’t see what was wrong with publishing this story, and almost everyone else could. As Joe Concha at Mediaite points out, the Times has yet to explain why Mrs. Rubio’s tickets are legitimate campaign fodder but 2008 Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s parking ticket problem –he had 15 outstanding parking tickets he hadn’t paid dating back to the 80s—didn’t seem to be as relevant when he was running.
The Times doesn’t have to explain; although maybe it needs to be explained to them. The paper is hopelessly, unethically biased, and can no longer be trusted to do its job fairly. The Rubio story has signature significance: a fair, respectable and trustworthy news organization doesn’t think like that, or publish a story like this even once.