God knows mistakes happen when writing stories on a deadline. You really, really don’t have to convince me that can happen. And yet, and yet…
Tuesday the Times published a story on President Trump’s rally in Nashville. Author Julie Davis estimated the crowd size at the rally as a thousand people. Then, this morning, Trump complained about that aspect of the story:
The Failing and Corrupt @nytimes estimated the crowd last night at “1000 people,” when in fact it was many times that number – and the arena was rockin’. This is the way they demean and disparage. They are very dishonest people who don’t “get” me, and never did!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
And a few hours later Julie Davis admitted Trump was right:
President @realDonaldTrump is correct about his crowd last night. My estimate was way off, and we have corrected our story to reflect the fire marshal’s estimate of 5,500 people. When we get it wrong, we say so. https://t.co/AX2JkAMyh4 https://t.co/2LbfmkiSti
— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) May 30, 2018
The story itself has been rewritten and now includes this correction near the end:
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) May 30, 2018
Again, I get that mistakes happen but how in the world do you mistake 5,500 people for 1,000? That’s so far off that it looks less like an accident and more like one of two things a) complete incompetence or b) malign intent. I mean, if she’d reported “a few thousand” and it was 5,500 that would be bad enough, but she somehow overlooked 82 percent of the audience.
And let’s not pretend there isn’t a partisan backstory here. Going back to the inauguration, the left and the media have had a field day mocking Trump over his crowd size. Everyone knows the president cares about the size of his crowds he draws. HuffPost published a video titled “Trump Has An Obsession With Crowd Size.” Just last week Jimmy Carter claimed his crowd at Liberty University’s commencement was bigger than Trump’s had been the year before. This is a well-known thing, not an obscure point.
So it can’t possibly be news to the NY Times’ White House reporter that this would is an important element of any story on a Trump rally. How big was the crowd? That’s the most basic information any reporter covering this story would be expected to mention. So how did she get this, of all things, so wrong?
And here’s the last point. The accidents and errors made by reporters appear to be systemic and partisan, i.e. they arise from bias built into the media system. We know that because these errors don’t arise randomly without any consistent partisan thrust. Instead, they always occur in one direction. You never see a story like this that over-estimates Trump’s crowd size by 80%. If Davis had overestimated the crowd by as much as she under-estimated it, she’d have claimed there were 10,000 people there. In fact, that’s pretty much what Trump himself did, suggesting the crowd may have been 12,000, which is more than the venue holds.
It’s a given that Trump is a political partisan, especially about his own rallies. What’s the NY Times’ excuse?
The fact that Davis corrected the error is great, but this sort of thing wouldn’t happen if the NY Times had even a few reporters who were mildly sympathetic to the President. I’m not talking about die-hard Trump boosters, just someone who isn’t quietly part of the resistance bubble. But of course, you don’t have those people at the NY Times and so we get errors like this that always cut in one direction.