The New York Times is reportedly asking its reporters not to appear on cable news opinion programming, so as not to make it seem as though its “down-the-middle” journalists are taking political sides.
According to Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, “it’s not clear how many shows fall under that umbrella in the eyes of Times brass, but two others that definitely do are Lawrence O’Donnell’s and Don Lemon’s, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.”
Rachel Maddow is reportedly in that category as well. Her producers have reached out to New York Times journalists for years, and consistent viewers of Maddow’s program have watched her speak with print reporters about their stories almost daily. Maddow is even known to congratulate reporters on-air for breaking stories of significance.
Apparently that’s not happening anymore.
According to the VF report, New York Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet has felt that opinionated cable-news shows are getting are getting excessively opinionated.
Baquet and other managers have become increasingly concerned that if a Times reporter were to go on one of these shows, his or her appearance could be perceived as being aligned with that show’s political leanings. “He thinks it’s a real issue,” one of my Times sources said. “Their view,” said another, “is that, intentionally or not, it affiliates the Times reporter with a bias.”
An MSNBC spokeswoman pushed back against the Times’ mindset that its reporters should now steer clear of TRMS, telling TVNewser, “For over a decade, The Rachel Maddow Show has welcomed the best journalists from across the country and celebrated the hard work they do, day-in and day-out. This includes countless New York Times reporters and editors. That commitment to journalism is part of the DNA of the show.”
The move does seem a bit odd, at least from a business perspective. Maddow has one of the most-watched shows on cable news, often drawing 3+ million viewers on a weeknight. An appearance would boost the visibility not only of the reporter, but of the actual article. And who doesn’t want extra traffic?
That’s the argument at least one of Pompeo’s cable news sources is making. The person also calls the Times’ TV news appearance guidelines “inconsistent, incoherent, and poorly conceived.”
“At the moment that Donald Trump became president, and print media was coincidentally in crisis mode from a business perspective, a significant contributor to the success of publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post was the exposure that their great work got on networks like MSNBC and CNN. They are the beneficiaries of some very positive exposure for their journalists.”