The Old Gray Lady pronounced officially dead

June 14, 2020

Her masthead carries the advertising slogan “All the news that’s fit to print” first seen in 1896 via red lights on a sign above New York’s Madison Square. For decades she has been referenced by her colloquial name the Gray Lady/Old Gray Lady. She even refers to herself as “the paper of record”.

Her corporate name is The New York Times and in terms of journalistic integrity she was officially announced dead June 4, 2020 from self inflicted injuries.

Her final moment came when in the interest of truth and fairness an editor chose to publish an opinion column by Senator Tom Cotton (R -AR) laying out his reasoning and the Constitutional foundation for a President’s right to deploy active duty military forces to quell domestic riots.

Considering the violence breaking out across the nation in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd at the knee of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin it was not only a timely piece, but a needed piece.

And Mr. Cotton, a man who sat on the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson, graduated magna cum laude after only three years of study, had a law degree from that same Harvard, clerked for Fifth Circuit Court Judge Jerry Edwin Smith and who in 2005 voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army, served in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star seemed to be the perfect man to write it.

But that editor, James Bennet, vastly underestimated the amount of anger that opposing the accepted orthodoxy of Times staffers would generate.

Within hours, those staffers were in full scale revolt and within but four days of publishing Senator Cotton’s words Bennet would be forced to resign.

But this wasn’t the first time the Times had bowed to the mob.

In August of 2018 it was learned that the suspect in the slaying of 24 year old Iowa University co-ed Mollie Tibbets was in the country illegally. While the original headline was “Trump Seizes on Killing of College Student, After Undocumented Immigrant’s Arrest.” Times’ editors eventually settled on “Immigrant Is Charged in Mollie Tibbetts Murder in Iowa, and Trump Seizes on Case.” Never mind that an immigrant is one invited into a country while undocumented (the AP style book replacement for the legal term “illegal alien) implies one without said legal invitation.

Last August after President Trump made a statement on the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio the Times ran the headline “Trump urges unity vs racism”. The woke mob however would have none of it, the Times capitulated an “Assailing hate but not guns” became the new and approved headline.

This past March it took the Times three tries to appease its ideological base.

When Senate Democrats blocked via a procedural vote the pandemic rescue package the Times initial headline accurately read: “Democrats Block Action on $1.8 Trillion Stimulus”. Simple, straightforward, truthful.

And then came the backlash. So another headline was changed. This time to “Democrats Block Action on Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections” . But that still wasn’t good enough. “Democrats Block”? How dare the party of the pure be portrayed in such a negative light. Truth be damned when optics are what count.

And so it was that the initial truth was whittled down to the party approved “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal on Rescue Plan.”

And just three days before officially succumbing to her wounds another headline sent her into a spiral from which she could not recover.

On Monday night, June 1st, Tom Jolly, print editor for the Times, tweeted a preview of the next morning headline“As Chaos Spreads, Trump Vows to ‘End It Now,”. Another straightforward headline that the left could not let stand. After a “You’ve got to be kidding me” tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a slam from Sen. Brain Schatz (D-HI) “The New York times headline writers are going to Both Sides the country to death” and yet another angry mob the Times caved once again and published the ideologically pure headline “Trump Threatens to Send Troops into States.”

In the end, a letter to the editor dated June 8th, by Josephine Novak, herself a former editor said it all:

“While I deplore the views of Senator Tom Cotton, I am dismayed at viewpoint censorship on the opinion page of my daily source of news. As a retired editor of the opinion page of a national newspaper, I labored (albeit sometimes with gritted teeth) to make sure that my pages were used as an honest platform and not a selective method of indoctrination.

However desirable and tempting that option might appear, it is a misuse of a powerful press weapon that can rapidly turn journalism into dangerous propaganda.”

Dangerous propaganda indeed. Rest in peace New York Times, you earned it.

PUBLISHER NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the June 14, 2020 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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