At the risk of beating a dead horse, we'd like to offer one final thought on that lengthy New York Times' report this week on the Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., corruption scandal.
You've likely already read that the initial run of the Times' 1,300-plus-word report was published online Monday evening without a single mention of the fact that the senator is a member of the Democratic Party.
You've probably also read that the Times quickly and quietly amended the story to include Menedez's political affiliation after social media users noted the glaring omission (neither the print nor the online versions of the report include an editor's note mentioning the update).
Many in media were quick to downplay the criticism aimed at the Times and its reporter, Nick Corasaniti, who maintained Monday that the omission was merely the product of an "oversight."
The online "outrage," as one Politico reporter characterized it, was gratuitous.
The thing is: The Times deserved the criticism. There's a reason why so many were quick to assume the omission was politically motivated.
First, it's a generally accepted rule of journalism that state and party affiliations always follow a story's first mention of a member of Congress. This has been a rule in the widely followed Associated Press Stylebook for several years now. Anyone who has ever reported on politics in the United States knows this. True, the Times doesn't follow AP style, opting instead to follow a house style of its own. However, Times style dictates basically the same as the AP regarding identifying the respective states and parties of members of Congress.
It's strange that the Menendez omission slipped past Corasaniti. That his editors didn't also catch the mistake before the story went live Monday evening is bizarre.
This brings us to the final and much bigger point: The Times' Menendez slip-up invited so much scrutiny precisely because the paper has a funny habit of picking and choosing when it stresses party affiliations and political leanings.
Just last Tuesday, for example, the Times published a report citing not just the American Enterprise Institute, but "the conservative" American Enterprise Institute. Oddly enough, that same story also mentioned the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, which skews heavily to the left, without also mentioning that that particular group has a well-documented political preference.
And just two days before that particular report, the Times published a story referring not to just the Washington Examiner, but "the conservative" Washington Examiner. Incidentally, that same report mentioned the Brennan Center for Justice, which leans left, without also mentioning that it leans to the left.
Even more curious!
The Times is not wrong about the Washington Examiner's editorial viewpoint, by the way, and there's a reason why the paper stressed our politics in that particular story. The obvious implication was to say that even a conservative publication disagreed with the president on his garbage decision to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We get it: Statement against interest! Even conservatives!
Still, for the Times, the uneven application of political identifiers opens them up to the easy criticism that they have a funny bias regarding when they choose to identify a person or a group as mere partisans.
It's not an across-the-board-thing, mentioning conservative leanings, and the Menendez incident isn't proof of some shadowy conspiracy by the Times to boost Democrats over Republicans.
However, the Times deserved every bit of criticism it got Monday over the Menendez flap. Stop being oddly selective about identifying political affiliations and people will stop suspecting the worst of you.