The media are often criticised for being anti-Trump and this week’s New York Times has drawn significant flak for an op-ed piece that had the audacity to offer “a different perspective” on the US election and the world of sport. Authored by David Halperin, the piece was entitled “Forget About the Score: It’s All About the Action Once the Debate Is Over” and the sub-head read “The point of the debate is not to settle who is right, but to push the other side into making a mistake.” While it is debatable whether the New York Times has swung the debate to the left or merely articulated a more nuanced view of the world, the article was an instant hit. The piece was syndicated across a dozen US papers and made the front page of the New York Daily News before being picked up and slammed by conservative critics across the country.
The backlash against the Times is not a unique phenomenon. Ever since its foundation, the paper of record for the nation’s elite has been at the forefront of significant cultural shifts. From the Civil War to the advent of the telephone, the paper has been at the forefront of significant social change. In the digital age of social media, the paper is often criticised for being out of touch and even obsolete. In the sports world, the paper is often lambasted for being overly political and for obsessing over contentious issues – particularly in the run-up to an election. The New York Times is viewed as a liberal paper that leans left and it’s a sentiment that is echoed around the country. Even in the Big Apple, you’ll rarely find a New York Times reader in the midst of discussing the merits of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets.
Is the New York Times out of touch with the mainstream? Has the world of sport been turned on its head by the widespread use of social media? Has the paper changed significantly in the post-digital age? Has the op-ed page shifted left? Has the mainstream media become outdated?
Trending Now, Then, And Now
To follow the money, we need look no further than the front page of the New York Times on a Thursday afternoon. The fabled newspaper dominates the digital sphere on a daily basis and its dominance is reflected in the number of trending topics that it generates. As of November 23, 2019, the most-recently trending topics on Twitter, according to the social media platform, include:
- TheNYTimes (17.2M followers)
- DavidHalperin (14.5M followers)
- NYCManifornia (13.2M followers)
- NewYorkIsBest (12.0M followers)
- TheWhiteHouse (11.4M followers)
- JoeBiden (11.2M followers)
- TheWashingtonPost (10.9M followers)
- SethRogen (10.8M followers)
- Scandal (10.7M followers)
What’s fascinating is not only how the NYT is dominating the trending topics on Twitter, but also the way that it’s doing so. While individual journalists and reporters may be responsible for enticing millions of readers to click on juicy bits of news, it’s not individual articles that are sparking the trends. It’s the paper as a whole that is responsible. To wit, the above list is a reflection of what people are talking about on social media today – not what DavidHalperin wrote about sport two weeks ago. As of April 2020, this is the list of trending topics on Twitter:
- TheNYTimes (39.9M followers)
- DavidHalperin (22.8M followers)
- JoeBiden (17.9M followers)
- Scandal (17.4M followers)
- SethRogen (14.8M followers)
- NYCManifornia (11.8M followers)
- TheWhiteHouse (11.2M followers)
- TheWashingtonPost (11.0M followers)
- NYTimesTrendingNow (8.7M followers)
- TheDailyMail (8.2M followers)
- TheHill (7.9M followers)
- TheNewYorker (7.7M followers)
In general, the New York Times is responsible for spawning numerous trendy topics on Twitter. While we can’t say with absolute certainty that the paper has shifted leftwards, as of 2019, the most-recently trending topics are clearly pushing a progressive agenda. For example, the most-recently trending topic on Twitter is “TheNYTimes Trending Now”, an indication that many are turning to the paper for breaking news and in-depth analysis. While the paper’s journalism has always been praised and commended for its deep dive into important issues, it appears that the paper’s trending topics reflect a more nuanced view of the world.
Long Live The New York Times!
The New York Times is the best paper in the world. Period. It’s not close. While it would be easy to proclaim that the paper is the best because it publishes the most sensational journalism or the best writing, it’s not this simple. Take a closer look and you’ll quickly see that the Times’ accolades are well-deserved. The paper itself is often hailed as the foremost institution of modern journalism, credited with creating the modern newspaper industry. It was first published on January 1, 1851, and today, little has changed. It still publishes the most-readable and best-designed newspapers in the world and it’s easy to see why. The New York Times’ coverage of national and international news is unparalleled. It’s a newspaper that can and often does change the narrative.
What’s more is the paper’s journalism is completely open, accessible and free. It is one of the world’s great news publications and it’s very well-deserved of its reputation.
The Evolution Of A Paper In The Digital Age
The New York Times is often credited with transforming the newspaper industry. The paper laid the groundwork for today’s newspaper industry with its systematic use of objective reporting; intelligent comment pieces; and investigative reportage. The paper also gave birth to the modern newsroom. Prior to the Times, journalists worked in relative obscurity, producing “puffs and tidbits” for local papers and dailies, often with some stringing together a few international voyages for a far-flung assignment. Not anymore. In today’s media environment, journalists are in the spotlight and their work is often celebrated, with or without a byline. The New York Times is often credited with transforming the newspaper industry.
Prior to the 20th century, most print journalism was born out of, and firmly entrenched in, the status quo. The New York Times – and other prominent dailies, such as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal – were exceptions. They were the first to experiment with the Saturday edition, expanding the paper’s reach to include more readers. They were also pioneers in the use of colour, photography and investigative journalism. It was a new world and it needed a new paper.
The New York Times is often credited with transforming the newspaper industry. It paved the way for the modern newspaper industry and it’s still one of the world’s great news publications. While the paper may have shifted leftwards in recent years, it’s still published the most-readable newspapers in the world. It’s a newspaper that can and often does change the narrative.