Journalism Is Not Social Media and Let's Avoid Click-Bait

Ari L. Goldman explains what The New York Times anti-Semitic cartoon debacle says about the state of the news media. 

April 29, 2019

"A political cartoon of Trump and Netanyahu that ran in the international edition of the New York Times last week reminded so many of us of another era, the Nazi era. It employed every anti-Semitic trope, especially that the Jews control everything, including American foreign policy.

Over the last few days, the Times did a major mea culpa and removed the offensive image from its website. The initial decision, it explained, was made by “a single editor working without adequate oversight.”

But perhaps we should not be surprised. In recent years, the Times and other papers, buffeted by rough economic times, have cut back on their editing staffs. That is a grave mistake. Editors are what distinguish journalism from social media. When you let your gatekeepers go, the consequences can be disastrous.

A second problem is not with the Times but with other media, including Jewish papers. These news organizations, seeing a chance to rebuke the Times—and eager for click-bait—ran the cartoon themselves. Responsible editorial policy includes a refusal to reproduce such images. Why promote hate?"

Ari L. Goldman has taught at Columbia Journalism School since 1993. He is the director of the school’s Scripps Howard Program in Religion, Journalism and the Spiritual Life. Before coming to Columbia, Goldman spent 20 years at The New York Times, most of it as a religion writer. 

This column is editorially independent of Columbia News.