Accuracy in Media

A New York Post article title reads, “Box Office: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ collapses, even without a NY Times review.’ However, it is possible that the movie’s limited success and the lack of a Times review are linked. Cynthia Haven, an affiliate at Stanford University, points out that at least in the case of obscure books, negative reviews “can dramatically boost sales for obscure and up-and-coming writers.” This trend—of negative reviews boosting sales—can be observed again and again.

The NY Post article linked above asks the question: “Why didn’t The New York Times, which deploys a small army of critics to handle even the most obscure releases, bother to review this particularly newsworthy movie?” A worthy question. The Post goes on:

The Culture Desk, as its [sic] known over there, hasn’t even run a feature on the movie since 2007 (though a couple of Op Ed columnists mentioned it recently). The Times didn’t respond to my e-mailed query, but a commentor [sic] named Stu Freeman posted an intriguing theory at the movie’s page on the newspaper’s website:

“Has anyone else been wondering why The Times- which never lets a new movie go unreviewed (even when no critics’ screenings have been arranged)- has decided to break precedent with this one? My understanding is that the film’s producers actually did hold a press screening but decided not to issue an invite to this paper. If so, the failure to publish a review here is a matter of pure pique and comes across as a disservice to the paper’s readers. I have no personal connection to the film and nothing good to say on its behalf. My argument is that every film that opens commercially in NYC deserves to be critiqued by its paper of record. The decision not to do so is even more deplorable than that taken by the distributing company to withhold an invitation to its opening for reasons of editorial politics, operating policy or anything else. Who knows? The Times critics might have actually liked the thing…”

Indeed, it is noteworthy that The Times would ignore this particular movie while reviewing scores of others arguably less relevant to today’s current events. The Times’ possibly intentional choice to ignore Atlas Shrugged is yet another example of how news outlets control the national conversation not just by how they cover stories, but by which stories they choose to cover.

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