Maybe it’s because they’re jealous of all the awards “The Post” is going to win at the Golden Globes on Sunday, but the New York Times is trying to steal the spotlight by buying advertising time during the telecast.
Can’t you just let us have this moment, New York Times?
But in all seriousness, the new ad, unveiled Friday, will fit neatly into an awards night that figures to give journalism a starring role. It also will be a sequel to the “truth is hard” commercial the Times aired during last year’s Academy Awards.
While the plot of “The Post” (six nominations) centers on the decades-old drama of the Pentagon Papers, the Times’s latest ad nods to recent coverage of sexual misconduct by powerful men.
The Times, of course, was at the vanguard of this coverage when on Oct. 5 it was first to chronicle decades of alleged abuse by filmmaker Harvey Weinstein.
The newspaper’s text-only ad begins with a familiar phrase: “He said. She said.” It’s a phrase often used to suggest the truth is unknowable.
Then “she said” appears on-screen over and over again. The implication is that the truth is not so unknowable when one of two competing claims is supported by many people — as in cases where multiple women have come forward with similar accounts of being harassed or assaulted by men who deny wrongdoing.
The ad ends with this: “The truth has power. The truth will not be threatened. The truth has a voice.”
The #MeToo context of the commercial is obvious, but there seems to be a broader message about balance as a journalistic virtue. The message is that while there may be two sides to every story, sometimes one side is more credible than the other — and news reports ought to say so.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday that when counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway talked about “alternative facts” last year, she was “saying there’s basically two sides to the story.”
Conway was referring to an assertion by Sean Spicer, President Trump’s first White House press secretary, that Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”
Spicer’s side of the story was flat-out false. It did not deserve the same weight as the other (true) side of the story, which was that Trump attracted a smaller crowd than Barack Obama did in 2009.
But the White House’s position seems to be that journalists should not judge the relative merits of a story’s two sides. They ought to report Claim A and Claim B on a level plane, and let the audience decide what to believe.
He said. She said.
The New York Times is signaling its disagreement with this view of journalism.