Accuracy in Media


The New York Times came under fire last week for making “stealth edits” to an article on President Obama’s private meeting with journalists. They removed a paragraph that made the President look bad, and then made things worse when they issued a nonsensical explanation for the edits.

The original web version included a paragraph that said the President didn’t fully appreciate the anxiety Americans felt after the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks because he didn’t watch enough cable television:

In his meeting with the columnists, Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and made clear that he plans to step up his public arguments. Republicans were telling Americans that he is not doing anything when he is doing a lot, he said.

[The above paragraph was deleted. The following two paragraphs were added]

Mr. Obama argued that while there were potentially threats that would merit the kind of investment of lives and money equivalent to that made in the Iraq war, the Islamic State does not pose an existential threat to the United States and therefore the response should be measured. The United States needs to take on the group, in part to defend allies in the region, he said, but it should not be an all-out war.

Moreover, he added, part of the group’s strategy is to draw the United States into a broader military entanglement in the region. A sustained but limited campaign may be slow and politically unsatisfying, but ultimately will be more successful, he contended.

In response to questions on social media, the Times issued the following statement:

There’s nothing unusual here. That paragraph, near the bottom of the story, was trimmed for space in the print paper by a copy editor in New York late last night. But it was in our story on the web all day and read by many thousands of readers. Web stories without length constraints are routinely edited for print.

That sounds plausible on the face of it, except for the fact that if the Times was indeed editing for space why did it add two paragraphs and increase the word count?

Three words—liberal media bias.

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