Past time, in fact. Some Ethics Alarms readers don’t comprehend it either, but they aren’t editing the so-called “Newspaper of Record.”
Dean Baquet, who is soon retiring as the Times editor-in-chief, and not a moment too soon, dropped this verbal smoking gun during an interview in the New Yorker:
“The job of the New York Times should in the end be to come out with the best version of the truth.”
No, he can’t be forgiven a “speako” on the fly: major media interviews aren’t like that. Baquet had an opportunity to fix that quote, but he didn’t. He didn’t because his ethics alarms, such as they are, didn’t twitch. That’s really what the Times editor, and his paper, and the vast majority of its reporters and pundits really think. The “best version of the truth” is, naturally, the version that serves the interests of the Times and its allies, because they know best.
Note this, and please alert me when anyone on the Left side of the partisan divide has the integrity to admit it: there is no difference between Kelly Conway’s much ridiculed “alternate facts” and Baquet’s “version of the truth.” There is one difference, actually: politics is not a profession that relies on relaying facts fairly and completely as the justification for its existence. journalism is, or was until its recent ethical deterioration.
You will not be surprised to learn that there is no “version of the truth” in the Code of Journalism Ethics that members of the Society of Professional Journalists claim to follow (but do not). They are exhorted to “always seek the truth and report it,” requiring, among other things,
—Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
– Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
– Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
– Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
– Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
– Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
– Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
– Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public. – Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
– Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
– Label advocacy and commentary.
– Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.
Does the Times, the “best of the best,” meet these standards routinely and reliably? Let’s see, there are 17 of them…
- Hell No.
- Like with all the unsourced leaks and gossip used to crucify President Trump daily? Uh,NO.
- Consider the source’s motives? That’s hard to do objectively when they are so often the same as the reporter’s motives.
- No ,and
- You must be joking! No.
In light of that revolting record, I literally don’t care that the paper will do a thorough and fair reporting job when it feels like it, nor does it matter that the Times will occasionally decide to break a story that is deleterious to its favorite party’s prospects and public image. Being the first to report Hillary’ secret email server does not offset ignoring Hunter Biden’s laptop. In fact, it makes the Times’ partisan story-burying—in that case, the best version of the truth for the Times was one that held that there was no laptop until the election was safely in the bag—because, after all, why would they report Hillary’s scandal and not report this one, if it was true?
The essence of all professions is trust. Is a lawyer considered sufficiently trustworthy if she only represents her client zealously most of the time? If she only violates client confidentiality occasionally? No; such lawyers get kicked out of the profession, and appropriately so…because they can’t be trusted, and neither can the Times.
Here’s one annoying example: The “best version of the truth” for the Times all last year and so far in this one is that the January 6 riot was a “deadly insurrection,” while the Black Lives Matter riots and urban invasions were “mostly peaceful protests.” Those twin propaganda assertions show up virtually every day in off-hand descriptions and throw-away sentences, from straight news stories to book reviews. Baquet has deliberately allowed that misinformation—excuse me, “alternate facts,” OOPS! I mean “version of the truth.” Just as he put out a directive that said, “From now on, it’s “Black,” not “black,” he could have put out another that said,
The Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol will be referred to in this paper as Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. No one has been charged with insurrection, and no one will, because the elements weren’t present. It the riot is called “deadly,” the Ethics Code of the SPJ requires the Times to make it clear that the term refers to the shooting death of a female rioter who was unarmed at the time.
He didn’t do that. He has encouraged the Times to publish the “best version of the truth” as their leftist reporters choose to see it, misleading the public and undermining democracy while doing so. Journalists, as a group, are not that bright or well-educated; their arrogance to knowledge ratio in in high double figures. As professionals, the only way journalists can achieve the profession’s mission is to report facts without spin, bias or political agendas obscuring the truth. “Advocacy journalism” is an oxymoron: it is not journalism at all, but hidden advocacy.
That the Times, or any other source of news, sometimes, frequently or even usually reports the news without being driven by their biases and political goals does not make them ethical or trustworthy. Professions don’t have the luxury of being trustworthy some of the time; professionals are either trustworthy, or they are not.
The Times, because it concocts its “version of the truth” rather than reporting “All the News That’s Fit To Print,” is not.