New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said with a straight face Thursday the paper is not liberal, and added he’s not concerned the coverage only represents the views of a narrow segment of the American population.
“We have the biggest audiences of our history,” Thompson told a CNBC panel, when asked whether he feels the paper has “lost touch” with its readers given its stunning failure to foresee President Donald Trump’s win in the election.
“But are they all the same person?” the host pressed. (RELATED: New York Times Staff Braces For Round Of Layoffs, Budget Cuts)
“We’re not losing touch,” Thompson replied, citing 3 million new subscribers. “On the contrary people in their millions are coming to us … we want to cover America and the world objectively, independently, truthfully.”
The host pressed again, pointing out those 3 million subscribers could all be coming from urban centers on the coast, and Thompson replied by citing subscribers in every country, and launching into a characterization of NYT readers as especially curious and eager to learn. “We have subscribers all over,” he said.
“I don’t mean the readers,” the host interjected, pounding on the desk. “I mean what’s on the front page. Do you feel like sometimes that doesn’t reflect the entire country? That maybe it’s too far from a liberal point of view? I don’t know, I’m just wondering.”
“No,” Thompson replied. “To be honest with you, no I don’t.”
Another host interjected somewhat incredulously: “You don’t think you have a liberal point of view in The New York Times?”
“There’s no question that the editorial pages, the opinion pages of the Times –”
“No,” she pressed. “I’m talking about the front page, the arts page, the business page, the sports page.”
“I want to be really clear,” he replied. “In our news coverage, we aim to be objective and to tell people straightforwardly what’s happening,” he replied. “So the news without bias, without fear or favor is the famous phrase there.”
Thompson’s claim will be quite dubious to any thinking regular reader of The New York Times, particularly given statements and stories from its own reporters and editors.
Ahead of the election, the paper ran a column on its front page in which one of its own prominent writers openly questioned whether he and his colleagues should “throw out the textbook” and adopt an “oppositional” approach to covering Trump. Following Trump’s win, the paper effectively apologized to its readers for completely missing the story, and promised to “rededicate” itself to the “fundamental mission” of journalism. The Times public editor Liz Spayd got into hot water for publicly criticizing the blatant liberal bias of some Times reporters on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
Pressed further on CNBC Thursday, Thompson refused to concede any kind of political bias in the paper’s news coverage.
“The window for a lot of the stories, whether it’s the front page, the business page, the arts page, the style page, even the sports page: race, class, gender, sexual orientation,” the host said. “That seems to be the window for a huge number of stories.”
Thompson replied that “national security” and “classic cultural coverage” and other topics could be added to that, concluding: “In a way, the Times has become far broader than you’re suggesting.”
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