Stewart’s Blog: The New York Times and Deceptive News

Stewart’s Blog: The New York Times and Deceptive News

As the editor of Tallahassee Reports, I am acutely aware of the value of credibility in the news business. In this era of the “fake news” label, it is important to provide reporting with facts that are consistent with the message delivered.

The term “fake news”, in its purest form, is described as news stories created entirely to deceive readers. However, as experts at the University of Western Ontario have pointed out, there are variations of “fake news” with the same end goal -deception.

One of the their categories of fake news is the “slanted reporting of real facts” which is described as “selectively-chosen but truthful elements of a story put together to serve an agenda.”

Now the New York Times.

Considered by many to be the gold standard in reporting, the Old Gray Lady has recently provided a powerful example of “fake news” through the misuse of facts.

On March 16, 2017, an article entitled “Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants” appeared on the NYT website, as shown below.


A version of the article appeared in print on March 17, 2017, on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: “In a Survey, 40% of Colleges Report a Drop in Foreign Applicants.”

The obvious conclusion from reading the headline is that President Trump’s recent policies on immigration have had a negative impact on foreigners applying to US colleges.

However, if you actually take the time to read the study the report cites you would find the first “key finding” on its first page reads:

39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.

As the Washington Post points out, the headline could equally well have read, “Despite ‘Trump Effect’ fear, 35% of colleges see rise in foreign applicants.”

Indeed, in a survey of 250 institutions, there is no meaningful difference between 39% and 35% — the more accurate headline would have been, “About as many colleges see rise in foreign applicants as see decline.”

Even more troubling is the fact the article never mentions  the more positive pieces of information, from the study it cited. It is amazing that a journalist employed by the New York Times would report the 40% figure without the other numbers.

I guess the other numbers were not “fit to print.”

What this tells me, and should tell all consumers of news, is that no one should reach firm conclusions from a media report until you verify the facts and the context by reading more than one source.

Even if the report is published by the New York Times.

9 Responses to "Stewart’s Blog: The New York Times and Deceptive News"

  1. Call me fussy, but I expect a newspaper to print the news/truth on all the pages except the editorial/opinion and comics pages. Why read a paper when you can’t tell factual articles from slanted opinion pieces without fact checking them. This has always been called “Yellow Journalism”. Yet many liberals regard the NYT as factual from front to back.

  2. Breaking news: NYT journalists misinterprets statistical findings of a scientific study.

    More breaking news: Tally Reports blogger reveals statistical ignorance by using cherry picked article in categorical condemnation of a newspaper.

  3. A newspaper is made of up many editors, headline writers, etc. Don’t paint a broad brush when it’s not warranted. Point out when they do it wrong and hold feet to the fire. The New York Times is essential to our democracy and I support the way they shine a light on our democracy. I’ll hold you to the same standard Editor Stewart.

    1. I could not agree more with your comments. I review the NYT and WSJ every morning -those papers are essential. I was disappointed this article made it through the NYT editorial process.

  4. FINALLY!!! I have for years pointed out to some younger readers and learners of life what must be taken from our “news media.” Each media outlet is owned by a company and any company’s goal is to make profit. I pointed out years ago about the headline of the use of the Taser and the death of a man, “Man dies after being tasered with 50,00 volts.” I told these youth, one must read past the headlines and have an understanding of why it reads the way it does. Newspapers, TV news, magazines, internet articles need to draw readers for advertisements. The larger the reader base the more advertisers want to run ads, the more money the company (news media) makes on the sale of the those adds. It has never been about the facts of the news, but an outlet to make money from that news for the parent company.

    Any law enforcement agent’s headline could read the same at their natural death at 90 years old if they were tasered for training back as a rookie agent. The headline would still fit, wouldn’t it? Point…its not what it says in the headlines, but is the truth in the body of the article?

  5. Media has been pulling tricks like you describe since the beginning. The more it happens, the more it’s going to happen. There is a market for competent reporters seeking to print the truth, the whole truth, and all that. TR is in that niche. Maybe not the majority of readers will follow but enough truth seekers to make a good go of it for TR. Thanks for getting the facts out !

  6. As an infrequent contributor to the NY Times, here’s my thoughts:
    Enjoy their in-depth, non-political content.
    The articles with a political agenda:
    treat them like you would an un-vetted Syrian refugee.

    I saved 2-3 of their Presidential Meter graphics from the night of the election. One has Hillary winning about 95%. Another from a couple hours later is about 60%. The last one from around midnight, she’s less than 10%.
    A meter that was around 90%-plus for Hillary for weeks and weeks.

    Yet, I’m sure the creator never got fired.

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