The New York Times is facing backlash over its coverage of Donald Trump and the 2024 election

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The New York Times is facing a sustained wave of backlash.

The Gray Lady has for several weeks been in the crosshairs of a vocal set of critics and readers who believe that Donald Trump poses a grave threat to American democracy and that the influential news organization isn’t adequately conveying those stakes to the public.

Criticism of The Times is nothing new, but as it appears with each passing day that Trump has a real shot of recapturing the White House, the expressions of disapproval have become particularly pronounced.

In the view of its critics, The Times has been far too distracted as of late by worries over President Joe Biden’s age, allowing it to steal attention away from the larger and far more serious danger posed by a second Trump administration. Critics have also argued that The Times covers Biden and Trump with disproportionate standards, placing false equivalence on issues surrounding the current president to those of the former president, who is facing 91 criminal counts and fantasized about being a dictator on “day one.”

The latest salvo in the now weeks-long stream of criticism against The Times burst into view over the weekend when the newspaper published a poll it conducted with Siena College that found a majority of Biden voters believe he is too old to be an effective president. That poll touched off a torrent of angry commentary directed at the outlet, with some readers even declaring on social media that they had decided to cancel their subscriptions.

“That they even asked this question is evidence of the bias — the agenda — in their poll,” Jeff Jarvis, the Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism Innovation at the CUNY Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, posted on Threads. “Who made age an ‘issue’? The credulous Times falling into the right-wing’s projection. This is not journalism. Shameful.”

“NY Times, did you ask your random voters whether Trump is too insane, doddering, racist, sexist, criminal, traitorous, hateful to be effective as President?” Jarvis asked, adding, “This is not a poll. It is your agenda.”

The Times is, of course, far from the only news organization that has faced criticism over how it has covered the 2024 race. But given the influence it casts over American journalism, and the fact that it serves as something of an avatar for the entire news media, it has found itself at the center of the storm.

Some of the complaints against The Times and other news organizations are certainly valid. As we have noted before, it is apparent that the U.S. media is still struggling immensely over how to cover Trump and the ongoing threats to American democracy. Years after Trump ascended to political power and started drowning the political discourse in dangerous lies and conspiracy theories, news executives remain confounded on the most effective approach to combat the deceit. CNN and MSNBC can’t even seem to arrive at a firm policy over how to cover Trump’s live remarks (at times, both networks have boasted about how they don’t air his lie-filled speeches live, and at other times, such as on Monday, they both did just that).

To be fair, however, not all of the conundrums confronting newsrooms are easy to solve for. There is a mountain of thorny issues at the doorstep of outlets like The Times — and often there is no clear answer. For example, after the 2020 election, the conventional wisdom was that the press should largely ignore Trump’s antics. Now, in the run up toward the election, that line of thinking has changed, with Biden campaign aides even privately encouraging newsrooms to place more of a spotlight on his unhinged behavior, various gaffes, and chilling vows to seek political retribution should he win in 2024.

Moreover, some of the more well-founded criticism against The Times has been misguided. For instance, when complaining about the poll The Times conducted with Siena College, some critics skewered the paper’s sample size of 980 registered voters, ironically echoing complaints that Trump and his supporters have previously made against political polls. But as Harry Enten, CNN’s senior data reporter, told me, such a sample size is “well within the norm” for a scientific poll. And The Times/Siena College poll, as Enten put it, is “one of the best in the business.”

“People are upset today with the NYT because of…a poll?” Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of the progressive Mother Jones news outlet, posted on Threads. “There’s sometimes reasons to be upset at the NYT. There’s reasons to doubt polling is still always/often accurate. But don’t conflate these things.”

A spokesperson for The Times on Monday stood by its polling and coverage, telling me that its “polling and associated reporting captures and conveys public sentiment at a given moment in time.” The spokesperson also addressed the greater backlash the paper has received as of late.

“Our commitment to readers is to report on the world as it is, without fear or favor,” the spokesperson said. “Anything less, or advocacy in favor of one candidate, would run directly against the practice of independent journalism.”

Bill Carter, a media critic who spent the bulk of his career as a media reporter for The Times, suggested to me on Monday that the newspaper is, of course, imperfect. Carter conceded that “there are occasions when the paper’s coverage seems less attuned to the changing realities of our political dynamic” and that “not enough is made of the fact that one side treats things like truth and science as opponents to be fought and denounced.”

But Carter argued that The Times and other news organizations have thoroughly covered Trump’s many scandals at length, devoting significant coverage to fact-checking his lies, highlighting his ugly comments on a wide range of subjects, and perhaps most importantly, spotlighting his anti-democratic behavior.

“There might be some point to the accusation that the media have not sufficiently rung the alarms to alert the nation to an existential threat to democracy,” Carter said. “But if Democrats lose to Trump after all THAT coverage, the fault will not be in the media, but in themselves.”

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