Find a comfortable spot on the carpet, children, the New York Times has a lesson for you all about how to curate editorial content.
While fishing through his neighbor’s recycling this morning, Cockburn was amused to see, on page A15 of the Times, a piece about his favorite poll aggregators, RealClearPolitics. What on earth could the site have done to earn the scrutiny of the Gray Lady?
Brace yourself, dear reader: you may find parts of the report unsettling:
‘...RealClearPolitics and its affiliated websites have taken a rightward, aggressively pro-Trump turn over the last four years as donations to its affiliated nonprofit have soared.‘
Dear heavens! Rightward and aggressively pro-Trump? Cockburn almost fainted when he read those words — so he can only imagine the effect they had on the Times’s more delicate subscribers. What else?
‘RealClear became one of the most prominent platforms for elevating unverified and reckless stories about the President’s political opponents, through a mix of its own content and articles from across conservative media.‘
Elevating unverified and reckless stories? Goodness! Don’t they know that’s the New York Times‘s job? What the reporter Jeremy Peters seems to be describing here is aggregation — RealClear posts stories from outlets of different political persuasions. Today, for instance, you can find links to Vox, the Atlantic and Politico, as well as the Washington Examiner, American Greatness and the Wall Street Journal. In the olden times, hacks such as Cockburn used to call this ‘editorial mix’.
Diversity of opinion is a fairly alien concept to the Times, a newspaper that has published approximately one Trump supporter for each year of his presidency.
‘In recent days, as Mr Trump and his loyalists repeated baseless claims of rampant voter fraud and counting errors, RealClearPolitics gave top billing to stories that reinforced the false narrative that the President could still somehow eke out a win,’ the NYT reporter continues.
Once again Cockburn feels rather old-fashioned: is sharing a link to a story offering it a full-throated endorsement? Or is the purpose of RealClear’s aggregation to reflect the breadth of political opinion in America on a given day? Perhaps the site’s curators meant to offer a window into the minds of the 73 million people who voted for Trump at the start of the month. Just a thought.
The Times‘s sticking point seems to be that RCP ‘markets itself to advertisers as a “trusted, go-to source” admired by campaign and news professionals alike’ — as if posting the odd article from a right-wing writer renders this impossible. It is perfectly possible to publish conservative writers and articles, in the interest of diversity of opinion, without being a political weapon. The Spectator has been doing it for over 190 years. For what it’s worth, the Times markets itself to advertisers by describing how ‘NYTimes.com readers are educated, affluent and influential’. So why not test them with a dissenting voice every once in a while?