unz | As a Swedish journalist, educated in large part on Anglo-Saxon literature, I had together with many of my peers seen The New York Times as a guiding star in standards of journalism. Its feat in publishing the Pentagon Papers- the proof that the United States had fabricated the reasons for going to war with Vietnam- was something that we read about in school, and it inspired me to want to work in the profession and uncover the dirty deals of my own government. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the very same paper had these special floors, off-limits to journalists, where the dodgiest deals with the dodgiest figures were being brokered, and that the heads of this newspaper were not even embarrassed about it. Rather, quite the contrary, they seemed to gloat.
After meeting with Keller and Sulzberger at The New York Times, I felt a heavy sense of sadness about what I had witnessed. I felt sad for the staff of the newspaper, many of whom had gone through great risks for their profession and their audience. I felt sad for my generation of journalists who had been robbed of a role-model in journalism. And I felt sad for the American readers, many of whom still had no idea of what was happening on the top floors of The New York Times Building on 8th Avenue.
Since the last few months I am however no longer sad about any of this, for during the current election cycle in the United States, The New York Times has so clearly abandoned all rudimentary standards of journalism and alienated its readership so badly, that it has sentenced itself to wither away into irrelevance. Remembered only in history books as a relic of the Cold War, much like its sister newspaper Pravda of the Soviet Union.
As a Swedish reader of The New York Times, I may be surprised that the paper has ignored election rigging in the governing party of the United States serious enough to cause its top five officials to resign. But it doesn’t really matter, since I can read the source material on it via WikiLeaks. As a foreign journalist I may be surprised that the paper has chosen to downplay the political bribes of the Clinton Foundation, but it makes little difference because the Associated Press has made the investigation available for me to report on. As a citizen of a western democracy I may be surprised that The New York Times so clearly campaigns against Trump and for Clinton, rather than reports on the policy issues of the candidates, but I can ignore this since I can read and listen to what they say themselves, while I can get a variety of more enlightened and entertaining campaigns all over the blogosphere. If I were a US citizen however, I would be more than just surprised.
And this is where The New York Times has lost it. By dropping its veneer and abandoning its self acclaimed standards of journalism, it has sentenced itself into irrelevance. Because even if the newspaper has steadily been outflanked by many blogs when it comes to audience size, it was until recently considered to be an important platform from which the US elites formed their world-view. But a newspaper with such a small reach, that is no longer taken seriously even by the main presidential candidates of its own country, a newspaper that doesn’t abide by the most fundamental journalistic standards, namely publishing rather than hiding newsworthy, correct information, has very little to offer either any powerful people or its own readers. Because even propaganda has to be good, for it to have any value.