Jaimes: The New York Times learns the value of misinformation and the consequences of it

Encouraging impartiality should not only pertain to right-wing outlets, but also to major publications such as The New York Times.



U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley attends Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Marina Jaimes, Opinion Columnist

A recent op-ed in the Des Moines Register, “Media should strive for impartiality, but the facts are the facts,” highlights justifiable reasons for denying an outlet to Holocaust deniers but also comes off as attributing fact with a certain kind of partisanship.

After the author, Leonard Pitts Jr., blames Fox News, Alex Jones, and Donald Trump for creating all of the lies told to future generations, he writes, “But they will also blame many of us in the non-Fox news media for our failure to be energetic advocates for, and defenders of, the actual, factual truth. They will blame us for surrendering to a boneless ‘both-sidesism’ that simulates professional impartiality at the cost of clarity and fact.”

The irony of this op-ed is revealed that same day, the Times simultaneously released an article originally titled, “Nikki Haley’s View of New York is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701.” As the title switched to “State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Nikki Haley’s Residence” and finally to “State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Residence of U.N. Envoy,” it was clear that the Times had one goal in mind: to smear the name of a member of the Trump administration.

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After massive backlash, the Times included an editor’s note to clear concerns on why Haley’s name and picture were used to criticize spending that occurred during the Obama administration. Not only was Haley not responsible for the curtains in question, she was also not responsible for the $58,000 a month location chosen by the State Department in 2016. She was a victim of partisan journalism.

The idea is that impartiality should be devalued because of a fringe group of activists, such as Jones, leads to the error made by the Times. While the false headline is what their readers wanted to believe, in actuality, it was a gross mistake. As Pitts blames right-wing media for perpetuating falsehoods, he forgets to include major newspapers for doing the same.

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An April 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that “94 percent of Americans say they have heard about the current state of the relationship between the Trump administration and the news media. And what they’ve seen does not reassure them: Large majorities feel the relationship is unhealthy and that the ongoing tensions are impeding Americans’ access to important political news.”

This information is just as relevant today as it was in the beginning months of the Trump administration. In just the past week, North and South Korea have committed to an era of no war and the Dow Jones industrial average closed at a record high. The Trump administration has caused the media to feel so frenzied, journalists have forgotten their priorities in what is important to readers. Pitts was wrong … there is no way we can look at today’s media and deem it “too impartial.”