One of my rules of thumb is that if Caitlin Flanagan wrote it, it’s probably worth reading:
You know the left has really changed in this country when you find its denizens glorifying America’s role in the Vietnam War and lionizing the social attitudes of the corporate monolith Procter & Gamble.
… CNN, apparently by now aware that the event had taken place within a complicating larger picture, tried to use the new information to support its own biased interpretation, sorrowfully reporting that early in the afternoon the boys had clashed with “four African American young men preaching about the Bible and oppression.”
… Black Hebrew Israelites, a tiny sect of people who believe they are the direct descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel, and whose beliefs on a variety of social issues make Mike Pence look like Ram Dass.
The full video reveals that these kids had wandered into a Tom Wolfe novel and had no idea how to get out of it.
How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.
At 8:30 yesterday morning, as I was typing this essay, The New York Times emailed me. The subject line was “Ethics Reminders for Freelance Journalists.” (I have occasionally published essays and reviews in the Times). It informed me, inter alia, that the Times expected all of its journalists, both freelance and staff, “to protect the integrity and credibility of Times journalism.” This meant, in part, safeguarding the Times’ “reputation for fairness and impartiality.”
I am prompted to issue my own ethics reminders for The New York Times. Here they are: You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will causally harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.
My goodness! She surely does know how to end a story!