A valid criticism of journalism today is that it has become overtly partisan, with few outlets presenting all sides of an issue fairly and without editorializing. It’s gotten bad enough that most people already know what side of an issue they’re going to be getting when they read news from a certain outlet. Hence the criticism that modern news media seeks to provide “affirmation not information.”
The New York Times editorial board, no longer content to simply offer a skewed take on issues, has busted right through the thinly veiled partisan veneer and gone straight into activist journalism, outright encouraging readers to call Senator Bob Corker’s office and ask that he vote against the GOP tax reform plan.
The Editorial Board is urging @SenBobCorker to vote against the Senate tax bill because it would increase the federal deficit by more than $1.4 trillion. He’s said he would vote against the bill if it added “one penny to the deficit.” Contact him and tell him #thetaxbillhurts pic.twitter.com/JamVGLnvVO
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) November 29, 2017
This is something usually seen from political action groups or non-profits funded specifically to advertise in support of or against certain political policies. But it is highly unusual — if not outright unique — for a newspaper to engage in political activism.
Politico called the tweet “rare” in their coverage today:
It was not immediately clear whether The New York Times editorial board, which is separate from the news division, has ever directly called on constituents to oppose a bill by listing the phone numbers for their representatives. But the move signaled a rare call to action by the group, which has grown increasingly antagonistic to Republican efforts on tax reform.
In an editorial published Tuesday, the opinion writers blasted the “enormously unpopular tax bill” which “lavishes benefits on corporations and wealthy families”…
…A representative for The Times told POLITICO on Wednesday that the editorial board’s actions weren’t substantively different from its everyday work, but that the social media takeover was mostly an attempt to expand its efforts onto a different platform.
“The Editorial Board has been writing for weeks about concerns over the tax legislation pending in Congress,” senior vice president of communications Eileen Murphy said in a statement. “This was an experiment in using a different platform to get that message out. We emphasized to our audience that this was the position of the Editorial Board in particular, not of Times Opinion generally.”
The Editorial Board’s unusual behavior being likened to “everyday work” doesn’t inspire confidence that the 4th Estate is moving closer toward objectivity in news coverage rather than farther away. But perhaps there’s some comfort to be had in the realization that they’re not trying to hide it anymore.