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August 10, 2016 5:22 pm

Sex-Obsessed, the New York Times’ News Judgment Veers Astray

avatar by Ira Stoll

Office of The New York Times, in New York City. Photo: WikiCommons.

The New York Times headquarters. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Sometimes the bias in the New York Times comes not in the news that it prints, but in the news it chooses not to print.

Here is a selection of recent news stories that the Times either entirely has ignored or handled with wire-service briefs that ran only on the newspaper’s website, not in print:

  • A Saudi Judo competitor at the Olympics forfeited a match to avoid having to face an Israeli in the next round. (Saudi Arabia denied that was the reason.) This came after Olympians from Lebanon refused to allow Israelis to board their bus. (The Times did run a wire-service story online about the bus situation, but the newspaper appears to have assigned none of its own staff to the bus matter, and the wire-service brief doesn’t seem to have appeared in the print newspaper.)
  • Iran executed a teenager for the crime of being gay. The Times, again, handled the story with a wire-service account that seems to have appeared online only but not in the print newspaper. This wire service account adopted the Iranian government’s account that the boy’s crime had been “rape,” without mentioning the youth’s defense that it was a consensual interaction.
  • Israel rejected President Obama’s false public claim that its government had revised its assessment of the nuclear deal with Iran. This was a big flap in relations between Washington and Jerusalem, as the Israeli government likened the pact to the appeasement of Hitler at Munich, then somewhat backed down after an American protest. The Times handled this with a brief from the Associated Press that did not appear in the print newspaper.
  • Ali Shroukh, the Palestinian doctor whose assistance to a Jewish settler injured in a terrorist attack was the subject of a Times news article back in July illustrating “an act of kindness in a conflict that is often bereft of it,” was fired from his job, as a punishment for helping Jews. No follow-up story from the Times.

Here, by contrast, are some of the Israel- or Jewish-related news articles that the Times did find the resources to cover in print, or with its own talent, during pretty much the same period:

  • Nine hundred words from an Israeli New York Times columnist about his lesbian sister.
  • Eight hundred words from an Israeli New York Times columnist about sexual practices of Gur Hasidic men, who “sometimes get prescriptions for antidepressants to suppress [their] sex drive.”
  • Thirteen hundred words on Miss Trans Israel, “an Arab transgender woman.”
  • Three thousand, five hundred words — 1,500 in the Sunday magazine, then another 2,000 the following Sunday in the Style section, about James Altucher, who got rid of his home and worldly possessions and “now carries nothing but a bag of clothes and a backpack containing a computer, an iPad and a smartphone.”

I’m not saying that any of the stories the Times did choose to print or publish with its own staff were unworthy or even uninteresting. But you’d think that if the newspaper could find room or resources for all that, it might also be able to find room for all the things it skipped or shrugged off. Over the long term, journalistic quality depends on using judgment to allocate limited resources. On the basis of the past few weeks of work, the editorial judgment of the Times about what is “fit to print” and what is not seems at the very least to be highly idiosyncratic, and at worst to be unmoored from the traditional news standards that originally won the Times its reputation for excellence.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.  

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