Editor's note: Bob Kohn's "Journalistic Fraud," the latest release from WND Books, gets to the root of the real scandal at the New York Times and explains why the "paper of record" can no longer be trusted. Order your copy now in WorldNetDaily's online store, ShopNetDaily!
Times have changed, and with them, regrettably, so has the Times.
What was once considered the "newspaper of record" – a moniker reportedly coined by an early advertising manager for the New York Times, is rapidly losing its reputation as a reliable source of news. I've been a loyal reader of the New York Times ever since I attended P.S. 169, my elementary school in New York City. At one time, the Times exemplified the highest standards of journalism. That standard has now fallen into a tailspin, and the consequences for all of journalism are serious and should be of concern to all who treasure the critical role that journalism plays in maintaining our freedoms and the health of our democracy.
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Like many loyal readers of the Times, I am suffering a deep sense of disappointment and frustration. Yet, the source of that frustration is not the liberal views of the Times. When the Times prints an editorial expressing an opinion with which I disagree, I am reassured by the fact that conservative thinkers like Rush Limbaugh are ready with commentary and analysis to rectify the faulty facts, artificial assumptions, or flawed reasoning put forward by the Times editors. Let the Times write all the editorials it wants. That's not what I have a problem with.
The problem I have is what Times editors have done to the front page and the other news pages. I have a problem with headlines that skew the facts. I have a problem with lead sentences that slant the story. I have a problem with the omission and distortion of facts in the guise of news. I have a problem with the use of labels, like "conservative" and "centrist," to manipulate the credibility of those quoted in articles. I have a problem with poll questions that are devised to provide a predetermined result and poll results distorted to reflect what the Times would have the public to believe, rather than reflect what the public really believes.
Jayson Blair was the least of our problems – one guy plagiarizes another reporter's work and makes up some interviews that never happened. We may now be sure of the whereabouts of Times reporters when they file their reports, but can we really trust we are getting fair and balanced reports? It is the difference between a skin rash and skin cancer. I'm not concerned with the rash that Jason Blair was. I'm concerned about the cancer – the blatant use of the front page to influence public opinion, the passing off of editorial opinions under the guise of "straight" news articles, the advocacy journalism that has turned the Times into a tabloid in every way but the shape of the news page.
The New York Times has been called the "bell cow" of American journalism because it sets the agenda for all other news organizations. You never see Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings quote Rush Limbaugh, but they quote the Times all the time. If the Times' standard for objective reporting continues its nosedive, then the standards of all journalism will fall. This frightening prospect prompted me to document in a short book some of the pernicious acts of journalistic fraud that has gripped the Times' newsroom.
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The fraud has been going on for years, but has flourished ever since Times' publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. decided to place his editorial editor, former executive editor Howell Raines, in charge of the newsroom. Sulzberger was reported to have selected him because, like Sulzberger, Raines was a liberal. With Raines gone, his replacement is rumored to be another editorial writer whose opinions are better known to the public than his news reporting experience. When asked recently whether the public should expect to see any changes in the Times' front-page reporting, Sulzberger replied, "That's strategy. Things that are strategic don't change with people."
It had been a long-standing tradition of the Times to strive for impartiality. When Sulzberger's great-grandfather Adolph Ochs purchased the paper in 1896, he promised, "It will be the aim of The Times ... to give all the news impartially, without fear or favor." It is ironic how something so strategic, and so basic, could change so dramatically in the course of just three generations.
By abandoning its traditions, the newspaper has lost the trust of its readers. And, by lowering its standards, it has lowered the standards for all of journalism. Our democracy thrives upon a healthy press. Where will we find a healthy newspaper to replace the New York Times?