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Elizabeth Warren's DNA

December 7, 2018 at 8:03 am

A front-page New York Times news article reports about the backfiring of Senator Elizabeth Warren's decision to take a DNA test and disclose the results in connection with her claims of Native American ancestry: "Allies in Boston pointed out that, in Ms. Warren's recent re-election effort in Massachusetts, there was no evidence that the DNA announcement hurt her standing among voters."

These "allies" may have pointed that out, but it's the job of the Times to apply some skepticism and fact-checking before passing those claims along to Times readers. Here is a November 28, 2018, press release from UMass Amherst about the results of its most recent poll:

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Harold Levy

November 28, 2018 at 7:40 am

The New York Times obituary of Harold Levy, a chancellor of the New York City public schools, includes this passage:

Appointed on an interim basis by the Board of Education in January 2000, explicitly against the wishes of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Levy, a small, energetic man who arrived at his new office in a pinstriped suit carrying a pillow embroidered with "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished," faced daunting challenges directing the nation's largest public school system.

It was a behemoth with 1.1 million students, 84 percent of them from minority groups; 78,000 teachers whose contracts were expiring and whose ranks faced heavy retirement losses; an aging infrastructure of 1,145 schools, most of them overcrowded and decrepit, and a $13 billion budget that experts called inadequate.

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Amazon Bank

November 24, 2018 at 9:17 pm

An article on the front of the Times business section reports on companies that are offering online banking services:

Several other established companies are also moving in. Acorn, which attracted four million customers to its investing app, is about to start offering its customers a debit card to spend their money. And SoFi, originally an online lender, has added a bank account offering this year. Even Amazon is rumored to be working on a checking account for younger customers.

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Ford Foundation

November 20, 2018 at 9:37 am

The New York Times has a highly favorable architecture review of the two-year, $205 million renovation of the Ford Foundation's Manhattan headquarters, an update that apparently includes the conversion of the former president's suite into new conference rooms named after Wilma Mankiller and Fannie Lou Hamer.

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Smartertimes Gets Results

November 18, 2018 at 9:01 am

The New York Times has now issued a formal correction of the error in the North Korea editorial it published last week. The error was the subject of a Smartertimes item.

The Times correction reads: "An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly said that President Trump's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, has yet to meet a North Korean official since his appointment. Mr. Biegun has met several senior North Korean officials, but he has not held working-level talks with his designated North Korean counterpart, the vice foreign minister Choe Son-hui."


Which George Bush?

November 18, 2018 at 8:51 am

A New York Times article about the Presidential Medal of Freedom reports: "Mr. Obama honored President George Bush."

Because there have been two presidents named George Bush, that sentence in the New York Times isn't particularly helpful. In cases, such as this one, where it's not easily or immediately apparent from the context which president is meant, the Times would do its readers a favor by using middle initials — George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush — to distinguish.

In case you were wondering, it was George H.W. Bush who received the medal from Obama.


Insulting Work

November 16, 2018 at 8:26 am

In a front-page New York Times news article about the presidential prospects of Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, comes this passage: "Throughout his political career, he has championed populist platitudes like the 'dignity of work' that have resonated with working-class voters in all corners of Ohio while also supporting liberal social causes like women's reproductive rights and L.G.B.T.Q. rights."

The Times repeats the language in a photo cutline: "Mr. Brown has championed platitudes like the 'dignity of work' that have long resonated with working-class voters in all corners of Ohio."

A "platitude," according to my authoritative Webster's Second Unabridged dictionary, is "commonplaceness, dullness, insipidity; as there was much platitude in his remarks" or "a trite, dull, or commonplace remark, especially one uttered as if it were a novelty or matter of importance."

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Wrong on North Korea

November 14, 2018 at 9:54 am

A New York Times editorial, "North Korean Nuclear Shell Game," about the Trump administration's North Korean nuclear diplomacy complains about "no deadlines, no verification regime, no penalties for noncompliance," and asserts, "Mr. Trump's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, has yet to meet a North Korean official more than two months since his appointment."

Never mind the hypocrisy and inconsistency — the Times cheerleads for sketchy nuclear deals with Iran and even with North Korea when they are reached by Democratic administrations, but once a Republican gets into office, all of a sudden the Times editorials sound like they are being ghostwritten by Frank Gaffney.

Never mind that the Times doesn't even acknowledge the Trump administration's significant accomplishment of achieving the safe release of three Americans who had been held hostage by North Korea.

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Praising Asians

November 13, 2018 at 9:13 am

From the latest article in the New York Times' coverage of the Harvard admissions affirmative action case:

Claire Jean Kim, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Irvine, said the Harvard lawsuit is the "continuation of a historical dynamic that's been around for almost two centuries."

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New York Times Suspends Iran 'Journeys'

November 9, 2018 at 3:29 pm

It's been a long time in coming since Smartertimes first reported on the trips back in 2014, but the New York Times is finally suspending the money-making, journalist-guided luxury trips it has been running to Iran. The Algemeiner has news of the Times decision.


Vanishing Northeastern Republicans

November 9, 2018 at 8:13 am

Of all the angles for the New York Times to choose for a front-page post-election political story, the "vanishing Northeastern Republican" one they used is pretty lame.

The Times blames President Trump: "A Trump-Fueled 'Wipeout' for House Republicans in the Northeast," is the headline.

But the Times has been writing the obituary of Northeastern Republicans since long before Donald Trump became a political force.

Here, for example, is a Times dispatch from 2006:

It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican.

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Wrong on Harvard

November 1, 2018 at 9:41 am

A front-page New York Times news article about the federal lawsuit over Harvard's admissions practices reports, "Harvard has officially permitted students to see their admissions files since 2015, after a group of Stanford students successfully used a federal education law to gain access to their records."

That's not accurate. Harvard permitted students to do this in the early 1990s. Stanford had nothing to do with it. I know this because I got a copy of mine, or at least the summary sheet. Here is coverage from the Crimson at the time. A Harvard student from that era who is a friend of mine and who was my colleague at the New York Sun, Josh Gerstein, recounted the whole story in a recent piece for Politico.

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Trump's Attacks on News Media

October 29, 2018 at 9:41 am

From the Jim Rutenberg media column, returned after an absence:

He has succeeded in creating a daily narrative in which he is the central figure," Steve Coll, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker, told me. "And he uses props and invented opposition — whether they are migrants hundreds of miles from the U.S. border or the press right in front of him — to pursue this kind of idea he has about how his populism works."

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Republicans and Infrastructure Spending

October 26, 2018 at 8:32 am

From a New York Times staff editorial about how congressional Democrats might work with President Trump after the midterm election:

With Republicans likely to retain control of the Senate, the odds of even a vaguely progressive bill of any real significance making it through the upper chamber are slim. It's hard to imagine Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, allowing his members to come within 100 miles of, say, a costly infrastructure plan.

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The Billionaire Who Ruined Sears

October 17, 2018 at 9:43 am

Under the headline "The Billionaire Who Ruined Sears," the New York Times runs an op-ed piece asserting of Edward Lampert, "In 2005, he merged the rejuvenated Kmart with Sears, then a conservatively run but still thriving nationwide retailer." The deal was announced in 2004, not 2005, and at the time, the New York Times itself described Sears not as thriving. Rather, the Times reported at the time that Sears "has been on the wane for the last 40 years." Said the Times in 2004, "Customer traffic and sales have been sluggish at both Kmart and Sears." The Times article reporting on the deal quoted a marketing professor who said, "both of these companies are faltering." It described Sears as having been "struggling to reinvent itself while larger and more nimble chains, including Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe's, spirited away once-loyal Sears customers with better merchandise, better prices or both." It reported of Sears, "by the 1970's its retail fortunes were in decline."

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