In her book, Hillary Clinton says the news media has not done enough soul-searching about its role in her loss.
Her argument boils down to this: too much firepower was aimed at her emails, part of a long pattern of unfair scandal mongering over the years. Unfair press coverage fueled the “lock her up” frenzy and created doubts in the minds of some undecided voters.
Conversely, there was way too little scrutiny of Donald Trump and too much reactive coverage of his every tweet and rally. He was clickbait and ratings manna for the news media. The New York Times bears the brunt of her criticisms.
At an excellent event sponsored by the Texas Tribune, a non-profit news organization, I spent three days in Austin recently with many of the most prominent political reporters and editors in the country, examining the performance of the press in the 2016 election.
As the person who directed much of the investigative and political coverage at the Times from 2000-2014, when Hillary Clinton was mounting her own political career, her critique is one that I have spent many hours ruminating, well before What Happened was published or the Tribune conference took place.
Clinton believes the news editors at the Times had a vendetta against her. “Over the years, going all the way back to the Whitewater inquisition,” she writes, “it’s seemed as if many of those in charge of political coverage at the New York Times have viewed me with hostility and skepticism.”
It’s a particularly wounding charge for a newspaper that champions covering the news “without fear or favor”. It comes at a particularly sensitive time when, despite surging subscriptions, the Times, like every news organization, confronts epic levels of public distrust.
It’s also untrue.