Politics & Media
Jul 22, 2008, 12:34PM

Newsflash: NY Times May Not Be Totally Objective

The New York Times recently ran a piece written by Barack Obama on his plan and outline for the war in Iraq. Shortly after it was published, John McCain wrote his rebuttal on the issue, expressing his own ideas and strategies, but his article was turned down because it wasn't "new information," and didn't "mirror" the article written by Obama. Clearly the two candidates have slight differences, but they should at least format their articles in the same way.

Objectivity has been the widespread practice of the American press since the late 1800s. The American Society of Newspaper Editors finally canonized it in 1923, decreeing that "news reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind." From there the importance of objectivity grew until it was irrevocably applied to all reporters and later entire publications. All were expected to give both sides of the story on everything from a school board meeting to an international disaster.

Without equal coverage, the press failed in its primary goal: to present the American people with the information and motivation to actively participate in the ever-changing world around them. Citizens needed to make their own decisions, and the press was there to make sure they had all the right information to do it.

But apparently the press, or at least the New York Times, has a new motto: objectivity to the wind. Print what you think sounds better. At least that was its decision on the recent opinion pieces by presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain.
Obama wrote an op-ed piece entitled, "My Plan for Iraq," detailing his plans for troop withdrawal by Nov. 4. The New York Times ran the piece July 14.

But when McCain wrote a rebuttal discussing his views on the same situation and submitted it for publication, he was refused.
New York Times Opinion Page Editor David Shipley explained in an e-mail to the McCain campaign why he wouldn't accept the piece: "The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. ... It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory - with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator's Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan."

  • There's a reason this utter nonsense was printed in a college paper: the author, at least right now, knows little about the media or its history. The piece starts by saying that objectivity has been the norm for America's press since the late 19th century. Does the Spanish American War and William Randolph Hearst ring any bells for this writer. Furthermore, the Times, although guilty of not acknowledging its political leanings, can and does do anything it pleases. The fact that David Shipley, op-ed editor, worked for the Clinton administration, is not insignificant. Ultimately, though the highbrow notion of "objectivity" in the media died decades ago.

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