Fact-checking season is in full swing. Whether the conversation is about “fake news,” “alternative facts,” or any other euphemism for false information, there’s a renewed media focus on examining the veracity of claims.
The New York Times is trying to capitalize on public concerns about accuracy with an online advertisement that states, “In a world of fake news, independent, fact-based journalism stands apart.” Then, in large font, is the hard sell: “Truth. It comes at a cost.”
The ad campaign comes in the face of a particularly costly truth: Among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, confidence in the mass media has plummeted to all-time lows. Most Americans just don’t trust that the media will report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.
The New York Times certainly hasn’t been immune to those trends. So the advertisement’s focus on “facts” and “truth” may be an attempt to reverse its own falling fortunes, first by branding the newspaper as a reliable and accurate source of information, and second by refocusing the public’s distrust onto political discourse, and by positioning itself as a foil to perceived dishonesty in politics.
But readers, regardless of how much they trust or distrust government, should be skeptical of the newspaper’s repeated assurances that it can be relied on for accurate and impartial reporting. In fact, as measured by its reporting on one particular hot-button issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, The New York Times has if anything shown an increasing tendency to circulate fake news and alternative facts of its own.