The New York Times has never been without its critics. Despite that, the “Gray Lady” of American newspapering has long been held up as a paragon of journalism. Lately, however, the criticism has been coming faster, and with a new line of attack, from both outside and inside the Times newsroom. A recurring complaint is that the paper has gone “woke,” sacrificing balance in reporting to pursue goals aligned with social justice. Various explanations are offered for this alleged behavior. There’s the idealism argument – a growing number of younger reporters are impatient with “both sides” reporting, and have devoted themselves to bringing the Times in on “the right side of history.” Then there’s the money argument: that the Times has decided to play to its base, giving its generally liberal, more educated and less working class readers what they want. Either way, the criticism goes, "objectivity" as a value is out at the paper of record. And in a fundamental way – which is not a good one – the Times has changed.
Not so, say its defenders. The Times is still the Times. Yes, it has evolved, but in ways that make its journalism more responsive and adapted to these tumultuous times, when truth as a practice value in public life is under assault. Getting it right in such a world can sometimes be more of a judgement call, and of course there will be instances when its editors don’t. But most of the time they do, while the organization’s traditional breadth and depth of reporting, in more parts of the world than perhaps any other news institution, keep the Times at the forefront of news and information. All of this has been rewarded with a soaring subscription base, and capitalized on with an innovative array of new offerings, from podcasts and video series to newsletters and special projects. Importantly, by casting a critical lens on the historically disenfranchised, the Times is also catching up on stories it should have started telling a long time ago. This, say the paper’s supporters, is progress.
In light of this emerging divide over one of America’s most fundamental and historic sources of news and information, Intelligence Squared’s John Donvan hosts an especially… well… “timely” debate: Has The New York Times Lost Its Way?