According to a Vanity Fair report The New York Times is blocking reporters from doing left-wing cable talk shows because they don’t want to appear “biased”.
On Sunday, May 19, New York Times finance editor David Enrich got a request from a producer at MSNBC to appear on Rachel Maddow’s show the following night. Enrich had a red-hot front-page story for Monday’s paper, about anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank flagging suspicious transactions involving Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, and Maddow wanted to bring him on air to talk about it.
Maddow is MSNBC’s ratings queen, jostling with Sean Hannity every night for the crown of most-watched time slot in cable news. That’s why reporters tend to relish the exposure they get from doing her show. Enrich said yes, but after mentioning the planned appearance to the Times’s communications department, he was told he would have to retroactively decline. The reason? The Times was wary of how viewers might perceive a down-the-middle journalist like Enrich talking politics with a mega-ideological host like Maddow. The producer, who was informed that the Times asks members of the newsroom not to appear on opinionated shows to discuss political subjects, was miffed about the cancellation, sources said. Enrich declined to comment. An MSNBC spokesman said, “For over a decade, The Rachel Maddow Show has welcomed the best journalists from across the country and celebrated the hard work they do, day-in and day-out. This includes countless New York Times reporters and editors. That commitment to journalism is part of the DNA of the show.”
It’s not just Maddow. The Times has come to “prefer,” as sources put it, that its reporters steer clear of any cable-news shows that the masthead perceives as too partisan, and managers have lately been advising people not to go on what they see as highly opinionated programs. It’s not clear how many shows fall under that umbrella in the eyes of Times brass, but two others that definitely do are Lawrence O’Donnell’s and Don Lemon’s, according to people familiar with management’s thinking. Hannity’s or Tucker Carlson’s shows would likewise make the cut, but it’s not like Times reporters ever do those anyway. I’m told that over the past couple of months, executive editor Dean Baquet has felt that opinionated cable-news show are getting, well, even more opinionated. Baquet and other managers have become increasingly concerned that if a Times reporter were to go on one of these shows, his or her appearance could be perceived as being aligned with that show’s political leanings. “He thinks it’s a real issue,” one of my Times sources said. “Their view,” said another, “is that, intentionally or not, it affiliates the Times reporter with a bias.”
It’s not so much a new policy as a reinforcement of an old one. Reached for comment, a Times spokeswoman pointed me to the section of the Times’s “Ethical Journalism” handbook that covers broadcast media appearances: “In deciding whether to make a radio, television or Internet appearance, a staff member should consider its probable tone and content to make sure they are consistent with Times standards. Staff members should avoid strident, theatrical forums that emphasize punditry and reckless opinion-mongering.” Without question, this is not how MSNBC’s anchors see their shows (or CNN’s for that matter). And these guidelines were crafted back in the mid-aughts, a media moment that seems downright quaint compared to today. (What forum is more “strident and theatrical” than Twitter, where many a Times reporter spends hours of their day? Of course Twitter has been its own minefield for the Times.)
I have to say I think this is the wrong move from The New York Times. Our issue with the Mainstream Media is not that they go on left-wing shows it is that they report with a left-wing bias. I would have no issue with New York Times’ reporters going on Maddow’s show. My issue would be that it would likely become a Republican bash fest where the real story is hindered. The New York Times is doing all it can to look like they don’t hate Republicans and have no bias. They either need to fix there reporting or just come out as a left-wing news outlet.
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