Accuracy in Media

In a previous column, AIM outlined how The New York Times was agitating on behalf of environmental causes. Championing progressive causes is nothing new for the Times, but it doesn’t stop at climate change. In the article, “New York City Council Expected to Approve 2 Plans Aiding Immigrants,” Kirk Semple signaled the Times’ wholehearted approval of plans which would greatly expand immigrant rights within the City of New York. Immigrant, in this case, is a code word for “undocumented,” or “illegal aliens.”

This “long-sought initiative” wherein all New Yorkers, “including those without legal immigration status,” will come before the City Council for a vote next week, Semple reported on June 26. (The initiatives were approved, according to CBS and Newsday.) “Undocumented immigrants could use the cards as proof of residence, and to check out library books, sign leases and open bank accounts, among other benefits,” writes Semple. What could possibly go wrong?

CBS New York notes that Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will sign the bill, and reports that there are an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in the city. “Critics say the cards would permit benefits to people who shouldn’t be in the country,” reports CBS New York. If only the Times could have covered the other side of the story, as CBS did. Newsday notes that “some supporters [of the program] had lingering concerns about security against fraud.” At least that latter concern got some mention by the Times.

The City Council was considering a measure that would “earmark $4.9 million to provide a lawyer for every poor, foreign-born New Yorker who has been detained by immigration authorities and is facing deportation,” reported Semple in 2013. Upon passage, “The city is the first jurisdiction in the nation to provide public legal defenders at no charge to illegal aliens who are facing deportation,” CNS News informs its readers.

In Semple’s 2013 piece, he focused on the “New York Immigrant Family Unity Project” (NYIFUP) and quoted a professor who believes, “At its core, it’s a justice issue” that those who get deported get representation. “Mr. Leyva had no legal relief from deportation, Mr. Markowitz explained, and to prolong his case would have meant postponing the inevitable, at great cost to the government and to Mr. Leyva,” reported Semple about a “poor immigrant” who voluntarily went back to Mexico.

What about covering the reasons that Mr. Leyva was being returned to Mexico? He is described as a poor immigrant, not an illegal immigrant, and no crime is mentioned. Readers are left in the lurch as to the federal government’s motives for deporting him—apparently to make Mr. Leyva into a sympathetic character.

And Semple seems to have a habit of reporting favorably about the NYIFUP.

But explaining our border security problems really wasn’t on Semple’s mind then, and certainly isn’t now.  Instead of reporting in a measured way about the merits and demerits of these programs, he only highlighted the reputational benefits: “Taken together, the measures, which officials said were expected to pass, would further cement New York’s reputation as one of the most accommodating places in the world for immigrants,” he wrote. Semple quoted from those in favor of the programs—and those who promoted them—but no one who criticized them.

This wasn’t journalism by The New York Times; this was a press release about these initiatives before they passed.

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