The New York Times has been the subject of criticism from a variety of sources. Criticism aimed at the newspaper has been in response to individual controversial reporters, along with alleged political bias.
The New York Times used to have a public editor who acted as an ombudsman and "investigates matters of journalistic integrity". The sixth and last NYT public editor was Liz Spayd, who contributed her last piece in June 2017.
In 1999, the Times ran a series of stories about alleged theft of classified documents from Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The prime suspect, Taiwan-born U.S. citizen Dr. Wen Ho Lee, had his name leaked to the Times by U.S. Energy Department officials. Dr. Lee was indicted on 59 counts and jailed in solitary confinement for 278 days until he accepted a plea bargain from the government. The alleged breach of security became a catalyst for the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA, not to be confused with the NSA and the NSC). This was similar to how the 9/11 attacks led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Dr. Lee was released after the government's case could not be proven.
President Clinton issued a public apology to Dr. Lee over his treatment. The federal judge in charge of the case, James Aubrey Parker, remarked that "top decision makers in the executive branch ... have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen." Dr. Lee filed a lawsuit under the Privacy Act alleging that officials had leaked false and incriminating information to the media before charges had been filed. Dr. Lee's lawsuit was settled in 2006, just before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to decide whether to hear the case. The issues were similar to those in the Plame affair criminal investigation, when Times reporter Judith Miller spent 2½ months in jail rather than reveal her government source.
On October 12, 2001, Times reporter Judith Miller became one of several victims of alleged anthrax attacks. The book Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, which Miller had co-authored with two other Times staffers, had been published ten days earlier on October 2. It became a top New York Times bestseller within a few weeks. Its cover art depicted a white envelope like those used in the anthrax incidents. The text, written before the September 11 attacks, made reference to Islamic jihadists:
|"||Some of the more violent groups were underwritten by a wealthy Saudi exile, Osama bin Laden, who hoped to spread his radical vision of Islamic rule to Muslims everywhere and drive the United States out of the Middle East and Africa.||"|
In 2002, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a series of columns indirectly suggesting that Dr. Steven Hatfill, a former U.S. Army germ-warfare researcher named as a "person of interest" by the FBI, might be a "likely culprit" in the anthrax attacks. Dr. Hatfill was never charged with any crime. In 2004, Dr. Hatfill sued the Times and Kristof for libel, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After years of proceedings, the case was dismissed in 2007, and the dismissal was upheld on appeal. In 2008, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which refused to grant certiorari, effectively leaving the dismissal in place. The basis for the dismissal was that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" and he had not proved malice on the part of the Times.
In 2003, the Times admitted that Jayson Blair, one of its reporters, had committed repeated journalistic fraud over a span of several years. The general professionalism of the paper was questioned, though Blair immediately resigned following the incident. Questions of affirmative action in journalism were also raised, since Blair is black. The paper's top two editors - Howell Raines, the executive editor, and Gerald M. Boyd, managing editor - resigned their posts following the incident.
Judith Miller wrote a series of exclusive and prominently displayed articles "strongly suggest[ing] Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction" using Ahmad Chalabi as her source prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This aided the George W. Bush administration in making the case for war.
In October 2005, Times reporter Judith Miller was released from prison after 85 days, when she agreed to testify to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury after receiving a personal waiver, both on the phone and in writing, of her earlier confidential source agreement with Lewis "Scooter" Libby. No other reporter whose testimony had been sought in the case had received such a direct and particularized release. Her incarceration has helped fuel an effort in Congress to enact a federal shield law, comparable to the state shield laws which protect reporters in 31 of the 50 states. After her second appearance before the grand jury, Miller was released from her contempt of court finding. Miller resigned from the paper on November 9, 2005.
CampusJ Jewish Collegiate News was a website covering Jewish news on college and university campuses with a network of student journalists. In March 2005, CampusJ broke the story that The New York Times had negotiated a deal with Columbia University administrators to exclude student response in an article on academic bias in exchange for exclusive access to a report.
CampusJ, part of the J-Blogosphere, was launched in February 2005 by editor and publisher Steven I. Weiss of Canonist. The last posting was dated May 20, 2007. By 2008, the site appeared defunct, and many of the sections had no new content for months. CampusJ's staff of student reporters covered the Jewish news on thirty or more campuses, including American University, George Washington University, McGill, Northwestern, Rutgers and Washington University, by reporting for campus-specific school homepages (blogs).
On December 16, 2005, a New York Times article revealed that the Bush administration had ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept telephone conversations between suspected terrorists in the U.S. and those in other countries without first obtaining court warrants for the surveillance, apparently in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and without the knowledge or consent of the Congress. A federal judge recently held that the plan revealed by the Times was unconstitutional, and hearings have been held on this issue in Congress. The article noted that reporters and editors at the Times had known about the intelligence-gathering program for approximately a year but had, at the request of White House officials, delayed publication to conduct additional reporting. The Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine the sources of the classified information obtained by the Times. The men who reported the stories, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006.
Much controversy was caused when, on June 23, 2006, The Times (along with the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times) revealed the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, a CIA/Department of Treasury scheme to access transactional database of the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication ("SWIFT"). In September 2006, the Belgian government declared that the SWIFT dealings with U.S. government authorities were, in fact, a breach of Belgian and European privacy laws.
On December 22, 2006 at the request of the Bush Administration, the paper removed sections of an Op-Ed piece critical of the administration's policy towards Iran which contained publicly available information that Iran cooperated after the 9/11 attacks and offered to negotiate a diplomatic settlement in 2003.
On Monday, September 10, 2007, the Times ran a full-page advertisement for MoveOn.org questioning the integrity of General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, entitled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" The Times only charged MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, $65,000 for the advertisement that, according to public relations director Abbe Serphos, normally costs around $181,692, or roughly a 64% discount. Serphos declined to explain the discount.
Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis denied the rate charged indicated a political bias and said it was the paper's policy not to disclose the rate paid by any advertiser. "We do not distinguish the advertising rates based on the political content of the ad," Mathis told Reuters. "The advertising folks did not see the content of the ad before the rate was quoted," she said, adding that there were over 30 different categories of ads with varying rates. Mathis confirmed the open rate for an ad of that size and type was around $181,000. Among reasons for lower rates are advertisers buying in bulk or taking a standby rate, she said. "There are many instances when we have published opinion advertisements that run counter to the stance we take on our own editorial pages," she said.
Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor who blogs on media at buzzmachine.com, said the key question for the Times was could any other political or advocacy group get the same rate under the same circumstances. "The quandary the Times gets stuck in is they don't want to admit you can buy an ad for that rate, no matter who you are," Jarvis said, noting that with print advertising revenues in newspapers generally decline to offer big discounts.
On a more general note, Jarvis said U.S. papers should emulate their counterparts in Britain where, for example, The Guardian makes no effort to hide its liberal stance. "In the U.S., I would argue newspapers should be more transparent and open about the views taken ... and The (New York) Times is liberal," he said.
Advertising Age reported that "MoveOn bought its ad on a 'standby' basis, under which it can ask for a day and placement in the paper but doesn't get any guarantees." A subsequent full-page ad bought by Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani to rebut MoveOn.org's original ad was purchased at the same standby rate.  MoveOn later paid The Times the full rate once the newspaper publicly acknowledged that "an advertising sales representative made a mistake."
In their book Manufacturing Consent (1988), Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky analyze major U.S. media outlets, with an emphasis on The Times. They believe that a bias exists which is neither liberal nor conservative in nature, but aligned towards the interests of corporations, which own most of these media outlets and also provide the majority of their advertising revenue. The authors explain that this bias functions in all sorts of ways:
"by selection of topics, by distribution of concerns, by emphasis and framing of issues, by filtering of information, by bounding of debate within certain limits. They determine, they select, they shape, they control, they restrict -- in order to serve the interests of dominant, elite groups in the society."
Chomsky and Herman also touch on the importance of this perceived bias in The Times:
"history is what appears in The New York Times archives; the place where people will go to find out what happened is The New York Times. Therefore it's extremely important if history is going to be shaped in an appropriate way, that certain things appear, certain things not appear, certain questions be asked, other questions be ignored, and that issues be framed in a particular fashion."
In their 2007 book Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Case, KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr. sharply criticize The New York Times for their editorial judgment and its effect on the case investigation. It claims that the original reports by Joe Drape tended to exonerate the accused players, which contradicted Times' editorial stance. This led to Drape's quick dismissal and replacement by Duff Wilson who took a pro prosecution stance.
Also covering the case, sports writer Selena Roberts, made assertions, that "Something happened March 13." Furthermore, Roberts writes, "Players have been forced to give up their DNA, but to the dismay of investigators, none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account." Johnson points out that this statement was not true. The captains' March 28, 2006 statement or examined the defense attorneys' subsequent press conference both described the captains' cooperation with police, occurred before she penned her column. The Times never ran a correction. Later Roberts in an interview in the Big Lead said, "I wrote that a crime didn't have to occur for us to inspect the irrefutable evidence of misogyny and race baiting that went on that night."
Daniel Okrent, former Times ombudsman admitted to the bias in the Times coverage of the case. He said, "It was too delicious a story. It conformed too well to too many preconceived notions of too many in the press: white over black, rich over poor, athletes over non-athletes, men over women, educated over non-educated. Wow. That's a package of sins that really fit the preconceptions of a lot of us."
The February 21, 2008 The New York Times published an article on John McCain's alleged relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman and other involvement with special interest groups. The article received a widespread criticism among both liberals and conservatives, McCain supporters and non-supporters as well as talk radio personalities. Robert S. Bennett, whom McCain had hired to represent him in this matter, defended McCain's character. Bennett, who was the special investigator during the Keating Five scandal that The Times revisited in the article, said that he fully investigated McCain back then and suggested to the Senate Ethics Committee to not pursue charges against McCain.
"And if there is one thing I am absolutely confident of, it is John McCain is an honest and honest man. I recommended to the Senate Ethics Committee that he be cut out of the case, that there was no evidence against him, and I think for the New York Times to dig this up just shows that Senator McCain's public statement about this is correct. It's a smear job. I'm sorry. "
Former staffer to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigner Lanny Davis said the article "had no merit." Stating that he did not support McCain's bid for the White House, Davis, who had himself lobbied for the same cause Iseman lobbied McCain for, said that McCain only wrote a letter to the FCC to ask them to "act soon" and refused to write a letter that supported the sale of the television station the article talked about. Journalistic observers also criticized the article, albeit in a milder language. Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, suggested that the article does not make clear the nature of McCain's alleged "inappropriate" behavior: "The phrasing is just too vague." The article was later criticized by the White House and by several news organizations including the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. Commentator Bill O'Reilly raised the question about why the paper had endorsed McCain on January 25, 2008 for the Republican nomination if they had information that alleged an inappropriate relationship. The Boston Globe, owned by the Times, declined to publish the story, choosing instead to run a version of the same story written by the competing Washington Post staff. That version focused almost exclusively on the pervasive presence of lobbyists in McCain's campaign and did not mention the sexual relationship that the Times article hinted at.
In response to the criticism, the Times editor Bill Keller was "surprised by the volume" and "by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision [to publish the article]". The diverse sentiments by the readers were summarized in a separate article by Clark Hoyt, the Times public editor, who concluded: "I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed."
In September 2008, a McCain senior aide (Steve Schmidt) charged: "Whatever The New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day impugns the McCain campaign, attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin. ... Everything that is read in The New York Times that attacks this campaign should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective."
In December 2008, Iseman filed a sued The New York Times, alleging that the paper had defamed her by, in her view, falsely implying that she had an illicit romantic relationship with McCain. In February 2009, the suit "was settled without payment and The Times did not retract the article." Unusually, however, The Times agreed to publish a statement from Iseman's lawyers on the Times website.
Alessandra Stanley is a television critic. Complaints have been raised regarding the accuracy of her reporting. Her tribute to Walter Cronkite on July 18, 2009 had eight factual errors. Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The New York Times described Stanley as "much admired by editors for the intellectual heft of her coverage of television" but "with a history of errors". The New York Times printed a correction:
An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite's career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite's coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. "The CBS Evening News" overtook "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents' reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of "The CBS Evening News" in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.
An earlier contentious wording was on September 5, 2005 in an article on Hurricane Katrina where she wrote "Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety." The Times later acknowledged that no nudge was visible on the broadcast tape.
In 2017, the New York Times was criticized for an article, headlined "How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left to March," about fathers from Montclair, New Jersey who looked after their children while their wives participated in the Women's March. To some, the article "seemed to reinforce three old-fashioned tropes about gender and parenting: Men can't handle parenting tasks; men who manage to handle the basics of parenting are exceptional and worthy of a news story; and parenting is fundamentally the work of women." The freelance writer who wrote the story apologized, and the Metro section editor stated: "It was a bad idea from the get-go. It was conceived with the best intentions, but it fell flat. And I regret it."
Outdated figures about the carbon output of China were used by the New York Times in a 2015 article.
The newspaper's coverage of India has been heavily criticized by Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science, for its "hectoring" and "patronizing" tone towards India. He finds anti-India bias in coverage of the Kashmir Conflict, the Hyde Act and other India-related matters. Similar charges of racism against Indians have been levelled by the Huffington Post.
United States lawmaker Kumar P. Barve described a recent editorial on India as full of "blatant and unprofessional factual errors or omissions" and having a "haughty, condescending, arrogant and patronizing" tone. In September 2014, The New York Times published a cartoon showing a stereotypical Indian turban-wearing man with a cow knocking at the door of an "elite space club". This was their response to recent accomplishments by the Indian Space Research Organization. The cartoon "drew immediate criticism for being racist in content, and for engaging in classist and racist stereotyping".
The New York Times has also opposed India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group while the US administration led by President Barack Obama was actively supporting India's membership. This view was criticized for Indophobic bias by several western and Indian experts on nuclear issues. The New York Times has also published editorials attacking traditional Indian dress sari as a "conspiracy by Hindu Nationalists", which was widely criticized for ignorance and grossly representing the sari and for promoting Orientalism.
In March 2019, The New York Times received sharp criticism when it referred to Pulwama suicide bombing, which was carried out by the Pakistani terrorist outfit JeM as an "explosion". The headline of the article read "In India's Election Season, an Explosion Interrupts Modi's Slump". The wording was later corrected after receiving a massive critical response, including from the former Pakistani ambassador to the US.
In 2018 the New York Times came under criticism, including from the tourist office of the city of York, for describing Yorkshire pudding as a "large, fluffy pancake" and recommending it be served with "syrup, preserves, confectioners' sugar or cinnamon sugar". A presenter for the BBC stated that the Yorkshire pudding's history was longer than that of the USA.
On May 24, 2017, The New York Times caused outrage among the British police and government when it published leaked photos showing the scene of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Counter terror police chiefs said the leak undermined their investigation and victims' and witnesses' confidence. The New York Times published photos it says were gathered by UK authorities at the scene of the attack, including the remnants of a backpack, nuts and screws, and a device identified as a "possible detonator". Greater Manchester Police were said to be "furious" and said they would stop sharing information with the US. President Donald Trump the next day in a NATO summit condemned the media leaks, calling it "deeply troubling" and a "grave threat to our national security". The New York Times defended its decision to publish the photos, saying they were "neither graphic nor disrespectful of victims".
Caliphate, a podcast for the New York Times, has received numerous criticism after Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi admitted on the podcast that he "murdered people" while he was fighting for the Islamic State group. Numerous conservatives called for action against him after his statement, including Candice Bergen. She criticized the liberal government after not ordering law enforcement against him. Bergen also called for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to reveal whether the government knows where he is or not, but Goodale stated that it was the "opposition of keeping Canadians safe". Huzaifa also received concerns from television journalist Diana Swain that he may be "lying" to The New York Times or CBC News.
After the Times tweeted a cartoon portraying Trump and Putin as a gay lovers, LGBT activist and Democratic Rep. Brian Sims said it's time to stop the homophobic jokes. American transgender activist Jeffrey Marsh said "to have a group that's as well-established as The New York Times personally attacking you feels horrendous."
A spokesperson for The Times defended the animation.
In August 2018, The New York Times hired Sarah Jeong to join its editorial board as lead writer on technology, commencing in September. The hiring sparked a strongly negative reaction in conservative media, which highlighted derogatory tweets about white people that Jeong had posted mostly in 2013 and 2014. Critics characterized her tweets as being racist; Jeong said that the posts were "counter-trolling" in reaction to harassment she had experienced, and that she regretted adopting this tactic. The Times stated that it had reviewed her social media history before hiring her, and that it did not condone the posts.
The New York Times produced a video called "Inside China's Predatory Health Care System" (elsewhere titled "How Capitalism Ruined China's Health Care System"). In January 2019, Nathan Rich released "New York Times' Anti-China Propaganda," a video condemnation of the New York Times for creating a "propaganda video," citing several mistranslations and other false claims. The video has tens of millions of views within China, and was widely shared.
On April 25, 2019, The New York Times international edition included a cartoon featuring U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump was shown wearing a kippah and Netanyahu was displayed as Trump's dog wearing a collar with the Star of David. The Israeli edition of The Times was published at the end of Passover. After criticism from public and religious figures, The Times admitted to using "anti-Semitic tropes".
On April 29, The New York Times came under scrutiny again for publishing another anti-Semitic cartoon featuring Prime Minister Netanyahu.
On August 22, 2019, a politics desk editor at The New York Times, Tom Wright-Piersanti, was revealed to have posted several anti-Semitic tweets while working at another outlet prior to joining the Times. He additionally posted several anti-Indian tweets as well. His tweets included phrases such as "Crappy Jew Year," and "Jew police." The Times is currently in process of determining his future with the outlet.
Margaret Sullivan is the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times. ... The public editor's office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.
And who will be watching, on this subject or anything else, if they don't acquit themselves well? At The Times, it won't be the public editor. As announced on Wednesday, that position is being eliminated, making this my last column. Media pundits and many readers this week were questioning the decision to end this role, fearing that without it, no one will have the authority, insider perspective or ability to demand answers from top Times editors. There's truth in that. But it overlooks a larger issue.
Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller's series of exclusives about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, courtesy of the now-notorious Ahmad Chalabi--helped the New York Times keep up with the competition and the Bush administration bolster the case for war.
But Snowden already knew the one place he didn't trust: The New York Times. He went instead to reporters working for The Guardian and The Washington Post, each of which posted the first in a series of breathtaking revelations one year ago
An ad criticizing the top U.S. general in Iraq raised charges on Thursday that The New York Times slashed its advertising rates for political reasons -- an accusation denied by the paper.
Wasn't the public fascinated, after all, to learn that Stanley and the nation's Paper of Record managed eight mistakes in an almost 1,200-word tribute to Uncle Walter?
The Times published an especially embarrassing correction on July 22, fixing seven errors in a single article -- an appraisal of Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman famed for his meticulous reporting. The newspaper had wrong dates for historic events; gave incorrect information about Cronkite's work, his colleagues and his program's ratings; misstated the name of a news agency, and misspelled the name of a satellite.
There are corrections and then there are Corrections, and error-prone New York Times mistaker Alessandra Stanley got corrected today. For the second time. For the same Walter Cronkite story.
In fairness, I'll emphasize that the story's seventh mistake was the result of an editing error. But six errors in a story she had ample time to work on and check is not acceptable, especially for a reporter with such a troubling history of error. ...
An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite's career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated ...