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The New York Times has a new beat on its politics team: covering “right-wing media” as a means of better informing its readers what drives many Americans' political decision-making, since such outlets often bear “little resemblance” to mainstream coverage.
The Times' political editor David Halbfinger announced last week that longtime BuzzFeed News investigative reporter Ken Bensinger would “pioneer a new beat covering right-wing media as part of the democracy team on the Politics desk.”
Halbfinger declared Bensinger's new assignment, which starts Monday, was filled with “people who reject mainstream narratives and question the institutions that hold up our democracy. Understanding the way information is developed, circulated and absorbed on the right is vital at this precarious moment, and requires a healthy measure of patience, empathy and understanding along with investigative chops, skepticism and toughness.”
Bensinger, who didn't respond to a request for comment, tweeted his new job was “important and complex” and required “sensitivity and nuance at a critical time for this nation.” Asked to elaborate about the new position, a New York Times spokesman told Fox News Digital this beat was created due to the volume of Americans who rely on alternatives to mainstream sources for their information.
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“Our media and technology desks thoroughly cover many aspects of hyperpartisan media and misinformation (when relevant). The Politics desk created a new beat on this topic because many Americans rely solely on right wing media for their information, which often bears little resemblance to what is being reported in mainstream media. We want our readers to be informed about what is driving the political decisions of many Americans,” a spokesperson said.
The spokesman didn't respond specifically to the question of whether a position to narrowly cover progressive or left-wing media existed or was being created at the newspaper. The Times has a number of reporters on its media team that cover the large, ideologically diverse industry, but none appear to focus squarely on the left.
Media commentator and Fox News contributor Joe Concha said the new position was no surprise at a newspaper known for its liberal bent; for instance, while separate from the news division, the New York Times editorial board hasn't endorsed a Republican for the White House since 1956.
“This is how ‘journalism’ works these days: There are whole outlets with people who somehow refer to themselves as media reporters who are actually activists dedicated to watching and reading what they deem right-wing media and opining about what they disagree with,” Concha told Fox News Digital. “They know their audience and are simply catering to it.”
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The Times' media coverage has long shown a heavy emphasis on the right. According to a search of its website, 577 Times articles – including more than 200 opinion pieces – contain the term “right-wing media”, while just 48 have the term “left-wing media,” a ratio of more than 12 to 1. Many of the “left-wing media” references were simply from quoting figures like former President Trump deriding outlets they viewed as having liberal bias, rather than the Times reporting critically on them.
Recent references to “right-wing media” in the Times print, however, have been along the lines of the new beat: coverage of how conservative and right-wing press outlets have covered major news events, such as the FBI's Mar-a-Lago raid – “right-wing media amplifying the fury directed at the Biden administration,” the Times reported. The paper has also reported extensively on Trump's 2020 stolen election claims and the media outlets and figures that have aped them, which the Times and other mainstream outlets have framed as a unique threat to the democratic order.
The Times touted some of Bensinger's major stories over the years in its press release, such as when he revealed possible federal entrapment in the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot. Notably, the Times omitted that he was one of the journalists who helped BuzzFeed publish the infamous Christopher Steele dossier in early 2017, the amalgamation of unproven, salacious allegations of Trump-Russia collusion that's been widely discredited. At the time BuzzFeed made the controversial decision to publish the opposition research document, it acknowledged the allegations in Steele's file were unverified and possibly contained errors.
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The new position comes as the media industry writ large deals with immense credibility issues with the public. Only 16% of Americans said they have a “great deal or quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers in 2022, a 5% drop compared to the 2021 findings, according to a recent Gallup survey. It was the lowest number to give those answers since Gallup started asking about newspapers in 1973. Just 11% had such levels of confidence in TV news, also a record low.
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