Jill Abramson, the veteran journalist who led the newspaper from 2011 to 2014, says the Times has a financial incentive to bash the president and that the imbalance is helping to erode its credibility.
In a soon-to-be-published book, “Merchants of Truth,” that casts a skeptical eye on the news business, Abramson defends the Times in some ways but offers some harsh words for her successor, Dean Baquet. And Abramson, who was the paper’s only female executive editor until her firing, invoked Steve Bannon’s slam that in the Trump era the mainstream media have become the “opposition party.”
“Though Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump,” Abramson writes, adding that she believes the same is true of the Washington Post. “Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”
What’s more, she says, citing legendary 20th-century publisher Adolph Ochs, “the more anti-Trump the Times was perceived to be, the more it was mistrusted for being biased. Ochs’s vow to cover the news without fear or favor sounded like an impossible promise in such a polarized environment.”
Abramson describes a generational split at the Times, with younger staffers, many of them in digital jobs, favoring an unrestrained assault on the presidency. “The more ‘woke’ staff thought that urgent times called for urgent measures; the dangers of Trump’s presidency obviated the old standards,” she writes.
Trump claims he is keeping the “failing” Times in business—an obvious exaggeration—but the former editor acknowledges a “Trump bump” that saw digital subscriptions during his first six months in office jump by 600,000, to more than 2 million.
“Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated.”
The Times has long faced accusations of liberal bias, even before Trump got into politics and became its harshest critic. But Abramson’s words carry special weight because she is also a former Times Washington bureau chief and Wall Street Journal correspondent specializing in investigative reporting.
Baquet has said that Trump’s attacks on the press are “out of control” and that it is important to use the word “lie” when the president tells a clear untruth.
In “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,” Abramson praised as “brave and right” Baquet’s decision to run this headline when Trump abandoned his birtherism attacks on Barack Obama: “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent.”
Abramson, who had her share of clashes with Baquet when he was her managing editor, sheds light on a 2016 episode when Baquet held off on publishing a story that would have linked the Trump campaign with Russian attempts to influence the election.
Liz Spayd, then the Times public editor, wrote that the paper, which concluded that more evidence was needed, appeared “too timid” in not running the piece, produced by a team that included reporter Eric Lichtblau.
Baquet “seethed” at this scolding, Abramson says, and emailed Lichtblau: “I hope your colleagues rip you a new a*****e.”
Baquet wrote that “the most disturbing thing” about Spayd’s column “was that there was information in it that came from very confidential, really difficult conversations we had about whether or not to publish the back channel information. I guess I’m disappointed that this ended up in print.
“It is hard for a journalist to complain when confidential information goes public. That’s what we do for a living, after all. But I’ll admit that you may find me less than open, less willing to invite debate, the next time we have a hard decision to make.”
Lichtblau soon left the Times for CNN, where he was one of three journalists fired when the network retracted and apologized for a story making uncorroborated accusations against Trump confidante Anthony Scaramucci. And the Times soon abolished the public editor’s column.
Abramson is critical of Trump as well. She calls his “fake news” attacks a “cheap way of trying to undermine the credibility of the Times’s reporting as something to be accepted as truth only by liberals in urban, cosmopolitan areas.”
The Times, which broke the story of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, also “made some bad judgment calls and blew its Clinton coverage out of proportion,” Abramson writes. She says Clinton “was wary of me,” mishandled the scandal and “was secretive to the point of being paranoid.”
Abramson is candid in acknowledging her faults. When then-publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was considering promoting her to the top job, he told her over lunch at Le Bernadin: “Everyone knows there’s a good Jill and a bad Jill. The big question for me is which one we’ll see if you become executive editor.”
She admitted to him that “I could be self-righteous when I felt unheard, I interrupted, I didn’t listen enough.”
It was a heated battle with Baquet that led to her ouster in 2014. He was furious upon learning that she was trying to recruit another top journalist—Abramson says an executive ordered her to keep it secret—who would share the managing editor’s title.
Sulzberger called her in, fired her, and handed her a press release announcing her resignation.
Abramson says she replied: “Arthur, I’ve devoted my entire career to telling the truth, and I won’t agree to this press release. I’m going to say I’ve been fired.”
Her final judgment: “I was a less than stellar manager, but I also had been judged by an unfair double standard applied to many women leaders.”
According to Abramson’s narrative, the Times is no doubt biased against this President. Why is that? It could be for factual reasons. It could be for financial reasons. It could be for a group of heavily biased journalists to in unison attack a political opponent using the resources they have readily available: newspaper print and electronic media. Personally, I think — at least for the Times — the purposes are the last two. As Abramson indicated in her book, online subscriptions to the Times skyrocketed with the addition of Donald Trump to the political landscape in D.C. I am one American who subscribed to the Times online services just to keep up with “the other side” of Journalism. Honestly, I would NOT have done so if not for President Trump.
Don’t get me wrong: I have questioned the validity of much of what Abramson offered up in the past as editor and a contributing columnist at the Times and elsewhere. I give her kudos for this new revelation. To my knowledge, she is the first reputable journalist from a reputable news source to admit to rampant political bias in American reporting.
But there’s a bigger and more important story here. It begs for all of us to ask this question: “Where do we go to get REAL news — news that is objective, truthful, and without political perspective?” If Abramson’s revelation reveals nothing more to us than the confirmation of President Trump’s verbal attacks against the Times and other news outlets, it’s a start. But the very reason Journalism even exists is to provide people with information that is factual, accurate, and unbiased.
Other than here at www.TruthNewsNet.org, I cannot give you the name of ANY news outlet any of us can depend on for straightforward news all the time. That includes conservative like the Rush Limbaugh show, that of Sean Hannity, Breitbart News, FOX News, and others. And our resources and ability to wade through the bureaucratic layers of political narrative that heavily cloud the political landscape in America are limited to at best finding and passing along ALL the facts Americans need to know.
What do we do?
I cannot answer this question as today’s television, radio, and print editors, columnists, and reporters would, telling Americans “ignore all the others and just listen to us.” Our only alternative? “Think and research for yourself.”
Is that good enough?
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32
Obviously, based on that verse from the book of John, it is critical for us each to find the truth. And the only way I know we can do that is to honestly search through all the news we see and hear, and trust our own instincts to ferret out the truth.
And we need to get started. You can bet that 2019 will shortly see the beginning of an all-out assault by media outlets like the Times and other news sources, the Democrat Party and liberal politicians against anything to do with Donald Trump. It will be quick, across the spectrum of all things dealing with national politics, and vicious. The assault will be immense and broad. It will shock most Americans to learn that so many will align themselves with the Leftists in these attacks.
Be vigilant. Be thorough. Be honest and committed to finding the truth. It’s there.
We will continue to share what we know mixed with our opinions on many of these matters. Remember this: when we share facts it will be prefaced as “factual.” When we share an opinion, it will be labeled as “opinion,” so that you will know the difference. And we know this: “Just because one thinks something is right doesn’t mean it is right.” And, “Just because one thinks something is wrong doesn’t mean it is wrong.”
Here’s to a rewarding and informative year ahead for you and TruthNewsNet.org!