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The New York Times is the most-read newspaper in the United States – the paper is currently number one on circulation in America – and the newspaper’s success, particularly in the realm of opinion journalism, has made a good reputation for itself. This reputation, however, is somewhat precarious, and it is worth considering what the Times is actually doing with that success. Why is it, in general, the most-read newspaper in America?
One way of answering that question – even more accurately that way than the Times does – is by looking at some of the articles the Times typically publishes. The Times’ best-selling books and columns tend to be about contemporary politics and world affairs; its popular science articles tend to be about natural science; its business journalism tends to be about consumer products, corporate culture, and current affairs; and its fashion editorial material tends to be about fashion.
The main goal of the Times is to present what the Times believes to be an objective, fair, balanced view of whatever is going on in the world today. In this way, many of the articles have been taken out of the context of the actual newspaper material the Times is publishing on a regular basis. But as I will demonstrate, the news is never the same from one newspaper to the next, or from one book to the next.
The articles about the New Jersey shooter, Jeddique Mateen, for example, contained many things in common with the New York Times article about the Fort Hood shooter (September 2012) or the Boston Marathon bombers (August 2013). In each case, a perpetrator committed an act of violent terrorism. Mateen was a United States citizen born in New York City. Both the shooter and the Times columnist Richard Cohen were born in Jamaica. The gunman and Coen were born in New Jersey. The Times’ writer, Jeffrey Goldberg, came from the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, a neighborhood that is often compared the Bronx, a neighborhood that is often compared to the Bronx.
Yet in each case, the Times reported on something that, to the best of my knowledge, was not known at the time the Times wrote about the subject. Why was the Times so reluctant to report on a suspect who had no known terrorist affiliations before the attack? The simple answer appears to be