History of Newspapers: New York Times Part 2

About the history of the United States newspaper The New York Times, information about the paper and some of their scoops.


Moderately liberal, the "good gray Times" has, in the past, cooperated with the Government in suppressing politically sensitive news. For instance, the Times knew about U-2 flights over the U.S.S.R. months before Francis Gary Powers was shot down; it suppressed the story in "the national interest." On the other hand, it has been openly critical of the Government in its handling of the Vietnam War and China policy.

The Times's only taboos are against smut and scandalmongery. It is precise in a somewhat old-fashioned way about the use of the English language on its pages. It has been known, for instance, to put quotes around the word "gas" (for gasoline) when used in headlines.

Scoops. In 1871, Times publisher George Jones turned down a $1 million bribe to suppress his exposÈ of the Boss Tweed gang.

In a rare burst of daring, the Times printed a story on the sinking of the Titanic, based on news of a distress signal from Newfoundland. The news was not confirmed until a day later.

James Reston, famous Times reporter, was responsible for an incredible number of scoops: the Yalta papers, the documents in the Oppenheimer case, the Eisenhower doctrine.

With The Washington Post, The New York Times printed the Pentagon Papers, and, after an attempt was made by the Government to silence the 2 papers, won a Supreme Court case on their right to publish such material.

Merits. The Times has a well-deserved reputation for integrity and balance in handling news coverage. American press critic John Lofton has praised it for its coverage of the Berlin crisis, for instance, and it was a crusader in its criticism of the Vietnam War. In 1971, the Times courageously published the highly classified Pentagon Papers.

Demerits. Some critics accuse the Times of dullness and overcaution. It is true that the paper has on occasion suppressed some news in "the national interest": the U-2 flights and CIA involvement in the Cuban crisis. Similarly, the Times did not print the 1st picture of a Buddhist monk burning himself to death, though this may have been because the editors felt such a picture was too sensational. Months later, it printed a photograph of another similar suicide.

Because the Times tries to print everything that's "fit to print," editing and proofreading are sometimes too hasty. Some critics feel that the paper prints too much, that it could be pared down without sacrificing accuracy.

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