New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones says that journalists today have a problem with telling both sides of the story — not that they don’t do it enough, but that they do it too much.
She said news outlets are “struggling to cover in a way that appears to be nonpartisan a kind of political landscape where one political party has in many ways gone rogue and is not following the rules.”
“So this adherence to even-handedness, both-sidesism, the view from nowhere, doesn’t actually work in the political circumstances that we’re in,” Ms. Hannah-Jones said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
Ms. Hannah-Jones, who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, made her comments in response to the staff revolt over a June 3 op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, in favor of using the military to restore order in U.S. cities overwhelmed by rioting over the death of George Floyd.
Editorial page editor James Bennet resigned Sunday over the outcry, while the newspaper issued an editor’s note June 5 saying that the op-ed “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.”
“And what a lot of people said is that, you know, it is fine,” Ms. Hannah-Jones said. “We as a news organization must air the opinion of someone like Sen. Tom Cotton, but in a news article where we can check the facts, where we can push back, that you don’t just hand over your platform to someone that powerful making assertions that might have been unconstitutional and, most certainly, some of them were not accurate.”
In the editor’s note, the newspaper cited problems with the essay’s accuracy. For example, Mr. Cotton blamed “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa” for the rioting, which the newspaper described as allegations that “have not been substantiated and have been widely questioned.”
Ms. Hannah-Jones said Mr. Cotton’s views should have been included in a news article and subject to fact-checking to avoid readers receiving “misinformation.”
“Sen. Cotton certainly has the right to write and say whatever he wants in this country, but we as a news organization should not be running something that is offering misinformation to the public unchecked,” she said.
She added, “Our role as journalists is to give people correct information so they can make decisions.”
Mr. Cotton said Monday he ultimately faulted the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, for not standing up to the “woke mob of children at the New York Times who get triggered any time they hear a conservative opinion.”
“Within a day, it turned into something like a struggle session from the cultural revolution in Mao’s China, where the adults had to prostrate themselves and apologize in front of the woke children that apparently now run the New York Times newsroom,” Mr. Cotton said on “Fox & Friends.”
He also noted that the newspaper has said it plans to print fewer op-eds in response to the outcry.
“They said last week they were going to reduce the number of opinion pieces that they run, so I will say in advance to the world you’re welcome for reducing the amount of left-wing nonsense that you have to read in the New York Times editorial pages,” Mr. Cotton said.
Ms. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for her essay introducing the 1619 Project, which argued that a primary reason for the American Revolutionary War was to protect the institution of slavery, a claim some prominent historians have disputed.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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