Must-Read: Jonathan Portes: The New York Times, Brexit, and the balance of bulls—

August 7, 2017

Must-Read: This morning it is Jonathan Portes who is unhappy with the New York Times. And I agree. But it’s not just the level at which the organization is performing. It is that the organization is moving in the wrong direction. For example:

Maggie Haberman on Twitter Mooch isn t a comms professional But his messaging is smooth and and level headed

Those beats won’t sweeten themselves!

I think that the New York Times has made a decision. I think that the organization has concluded that “data journalism” and “explainer journalism” were just fads—that the road to advertising sustainability consists of a combination of (a) clickbait and (b) being careful to flatter all of their inside sources equally, via opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ journalism.

This produces stories that are not informative, abandons any hope of someday becoming a trustworthy information intermediary. And it produces stories that are not pleasing to Jonathan:

Jonathan Portes: Brexit and the balance of bulls—: “Two articles published recently by the New York Times… on Brexit…

…The first, by Jenni Russell, described it as an unmitigated disaster; the second, by Daniel Hannan, claimed that, by contrast, most Britons were celebrating the “good news”…. The New York Times did its readers a profound disservice…. Both… were… polemical and tendentious.  Russell’s… factual errors–for example, the claim that UK per capita GDP “has not risen at all over a decade”…. Hannan argued that Brexit optimists had been vindicated by relatively strong growth in the second half of 2016–ignoring, bizarrely, the fact that in the first half of 2017 growth was at its weakest in five years. 

The authors clearly weren’t chosen for their expertise. Hannan… recently made headlines by claiming, absurdly, that the EU imposed 32 percent tariffs on Chilean and other New World wine. Russell’s sources appear to be mostly reports in other newspapers….

Underneath the false, selective or misleading statistics… there’s usually a substantive point. Russell is correct that UK growth… has been miserable… and that the misguided policies of the UK government, not the EU, are largely to blame. Hannan is right that prophecies of immediate doom by some… notably… George Osborne were scaremongering…. [But] both… correspond… to Harry Frankfurt’s… “bull—”… [as] “unconnected to a concern with the truth”… constructed purely for an instrumental purpose… meaningless verbiage to those who know… deliberately mislead[ing] those… less well informed…. It’s simply not the case that readers could analyse the arguments and make up their own minds…. Those with strong views already had those confirmed by the article they agreed with, and easily spotted the flaws in the one they didn’t…. Those who hadn’t made up their mind but knew something… realised neither should be taken seriously… the less well-informed… [were] merely confused. Was anyone genuinely educated or informed? I doubt it…

But, again, those beats won’t sweeten themselves!

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