It is the end of the month, and as I click on what appear to be important articles in my social media feed, you, The New York Times, alert me that I have exhausted my free access to your news and commentary, including options for subscribing to your publication.
For a long time now, those messages have, frankly, irritated me because I have been blogging extensively as an educator about how your publication as a leader in mainstream media as well as other highly regarded outlets such as NPR and Education Week has been using my field of education as toilet paper.
Mainstream media consistently misrepresent the quality and problems with public education and teachers; routinely honor reform advocates, politicians, and organizations/think tanks with essentially no credibility; and remain trapped in vapid “both sides,” so-called objective, and press-release journalism.
Since I am just a blogger, only an 18-year veteran of public school teaching, and a current college professor and scholar of education, race, and poverty, I realize you really do not care about my informed positions, but since you are soliciting my money and my support, let me simply remind you here of some of my work highlighting your truly careless and harmful reporting:
- UPDATED: Mainstream Media in (Perpetual) Crisis: More Education Meat Grinder
- The New York Times in an Era of Kool-Aid Journalism
- Mainstream Media, Not Fake News, Spawned Trumplandia
However, I am not addressing this open letter to you, The New York Times, to rail yet again about your failures as a major aspect of the free press in the U.S.
For the first time, when you blocked access to an article and waved your subscription options before me, I paused because unlike NPR, you have done something that many are calling “bold,” but is actually what you should have always been doing: In a Swirl of ‘Untruths’ and ‘Falsehoods,’ Calling a Lie a Lie, Dan Barry.
If I may be so bold, let me counter your solicitation of my patronage with a request of my own.
The New York Times, as major voice in a fading field, could you please acknowledge the failure of mainstream media, a failure far more damaging than fake news, and along with your commitment to name lies as “lies,” could you please take a foundational stand for moving mainstream media in the U.S. toward rejecting “fair and balanced” and then embrace the tenets of being a critical free press?
Again, as a lowly blogger/educator/scholar, I know my voice really doesn’t matter, but I have laid out this problem often:
- When Fake Is Real and Real Is Fake: More on Crossing the Bigfoot Line
- Fair and Balanced Education and Journalism: On the Death of Democracy
- U.S. and Education Reform Need a Critical Free Press
- My Open Letter to Journalists: A Critical Free Press, pt. 2
- Invoking “Oliver Rule (Expanded)” for Education Reform Debate
- O, Free Press, Where Art Thou?
I am very cautiously willing to crack open the door I have long ago closed about the failures of mainstream media, beholden to our consumer society, because of your willingness to do something that any ethical person would do—confront lies, especially from the highest levels of our society.
But as I detail above in a recent blog, about the same time you made your stance about lies, you published a truly awful and harmful article about people living in poverty and depending on government assistance.
It was a hate piece that feeds the very lowest stereotypes (hint: lies) about poor people as well as triggering racism; others as I link in my piece have shown that the article was both filled with gross stereotypes and factually misrepresented the study it cited.
So, thank you for pointing out Trump’s lies, but as I was admonished as a child, when you point a finger at someone, three are pointing back at you.
Will you simultaneously clean your own house, become a leader for your field in the pursuit of a critical free press, as you challenge the current administration?
If yes, I will eagerly open the door, and subscribe with glee.
Sam Waterston: The danger of Trump’s constant lying