I’ve been following a bunch of people on Twitter, people who proclaim themselves to be “progressives.” (Whatever that means. My definition of it has been shifting quite a bit lately.)
These are rational, highly intelligent and experienced people who’ve worked in politics and journalism for most of their lives. For the most part, I share their ideals. Except I don’t share their habit of incessantly raking the Times for what they describe as misleading headlines and stories about politics and political events.
Mostly, I don’t think they have a solid grasp of what newspapers do. Here’s what newspapers do: report the facts about important current events.
“Progressive” critics rail against the Times and other news media sources for…what exactly? For failing to report significant news events? No. For failing to report significant news events with a political slant that satisfies them. For failing to eliminate quotes from people they don’t like, when the quotes are relevant to the story.
They also rail against some of the Times’ columnists and occasional opinion writers. For what reason? Because they don’t like their conservative political views.
I don’t either, but do I want the Times to banish all conservative opinions? No. Because these people exist. I can’t and won’t live in a world so Elysian I shut out reality. I need to know about people I don’t like so I can figure out what to do about them, aside from frequently throwing up.
It isn’t the Times’ role to report with only progressive or conservative lean. That wouldn’t be news; it’d be propaganda.
And anyway, why are these critics so furious? Are they afraid people who read the Times will be…what? Brainwashed?
If progressives are paranoid enough to believe their supporters can be brainwashed by a newspaper, they have the sort of contempt for their supporters’ intelligence that I perceive among totalitarian rulers. They’re letting it be known (to me, at least) they don’t trust The Masses to get informed by a newspaper, if the newspaper does not slant the way they want it to slant.
And they’re telling me they don’t trust The Masses to vote for the candidate they’re promoting — not if the pesky New York Times or Washington Post is out there, egregiously neglecting to slant every political and international story in their approved direction.
I’ve been reading the Times sort of forever. I also read the Daily News, and lots of articles from magazines and other journals. Let me tell you something shocking and radical: newspapers report on the news.
That’s what newspapers do. They give us the facts, after which we can, if we so choose, decide what we think and feel about those facts, and what we intend to do about them.
Progressive critics of news media should consider two things:
First, where do they suggest we get our facts if we don’t read one or two newspapers? I haven’t heard any of them mention an alternative, credible major news source.
And second, they should realize their virulent criticism of news media sounds like… Trump’s. Which itself echoes totalitarians like Putin.
The only people who loathe and fear a free press are dictators. This isn’t an attractive position for people who want to be called “progressives.”