What the Ben Rhodes' story push back reveals about media bias

Ever since the NY Times Magazine published an unflattering profile of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the long knives have been out for the piece’s author, David Samuels. Today the editor of the NY Times magazine published a series of tweets defending Samuels and those tweets raise an interesting point about how the left-leaning media expects the media to behave when one of their own oxen is being gored.

That view, that Samuels was against the deal and used the interview with Rhodes to discredit it, has been widespread on the left. In essence, multiple outlets have accused Samuels of writing a hit piece and failing to disclose his personal agenda. In fact, Silverstein was accused of “disclosure failure” and replied as follows:

I went back and checked on some of the critical takes on the piece and, sure enough, some version of disclosure failure is a common theme. Case in point, here’s Vox’s Matthew Yglesias:

Samuels is a veteran proponent of bombing Iran and an opponent of the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy, but his profile does not state either of those facts plainly. Instead it simply offers an “admiring” portrayal of Rhodes’s skill at shaping the narrative that’s so clumsy that a range of readers, including Carlos Lozada and Joshua Foust, mistook it for a puff piece that accidentally makes its subject look bad.

I’m all for disclosure but the suggestions that Samuels needed to disclose the “facts” of his personal opinions to his readers is one that Vox certainly does not follow on its own site. For instance, this recent story reads like a Planned Parenthood press release. It’s not difficult to tell where the author stands on the issue of abortion but those opinions are not disclosed in the piece.

Similarly, Vox science reporter Joseph Stromberg has written more than a dozen stories about commuting and suburban sprawl, the most recent titled “Highways gutted American cities. So why did they build them?” The content of these pieces strongly suggests Stromberg has definite opinions on the topic. So where does he disclose his personal views on the matter in each story so the reader can judge accordingly? He didn’t do so in the stories I looked at, nor in the announcement he wrote for the entire series. Again, where does Vox practice the full disclosure of each author’s opinions about the topic they are covering?

The left’s sudden concern for David Samuels’ personal views is utterly hypocritical. The right has complained about left-wing media bias for decades and the response from the left, which benefits from said bias, has usually been a yawn or ignoring the topic altogether. But now that a reporter has embarrassed a member of the President’s administration (and implicitly some left-leaning writers at Vox and elsewhere) they are shocked and dismayed at the potential for personal opinions to color reporting.

The real lesson here is just how rare it is for something like this to happen to the left. They are aghast at the NY Times doing to them what the Times has done to conservatives for decades, i.e. sending opinionated writers in to cover the news and then refusing to admit opinion had anything to do with the result.