When the news I self-select to consume agrees with me, it's fair and accurate. When the news I self-select to consume doesn't, it's because the media lives in a right/left echo chamber.

Expand full comment

The common theme of such complaints is “right wing media is generally ideologically disciplined, we need ‘our’ media ecosystem to follow suit by burying news that is inconvenient to us”.

Expand full comment

Great piece! Wisconsin-based reporter here. I spoke to the state Dem chair after Trump’s win in 2016. The state party was livid. Hillary didn’t have a campaign office in the state until after the primaries, he told me, and she never set foot in Wisconsin once during the campaign. I noticed Biden did not repeat that mistake. Hillary ran a bad campaign and I cringe a little when I hear the Big Cope.

Expand full comment
Feb 6·edited Feb 6

Just because NYT staffers aren't sympathetic to Republicans doesn't mean they can't be excessively unfair to POTUS. The fact is the media environment has been tuned to fire on Biden from all angles since August 2021 - this comes from the far left and the right. The tilt of the economic reporting over the last year and a half is the best proof of this.

Ostensibly left-wing writers that work for the Papers of Record that have always infected their reporting with anti-Biden "but her emails" include Astead Herndon and Jeff Stein.

Expand full comment

Super interesting Nate. But, why look at news stories on just one day (i.e. Tuesday)? Also, why not pick a day of vast news readership (Sunday? Monday?), or better, supplement the Tuesday chart with the rest of the days by the various buckets you identified (Trump legal troubles, Ukraine, Israel/Gaza etc.) to get a fuller sense. Second major concern with this analysis is that you take only the "Indigo Blob", which is probably not the blob that those 80K who voted for Trump (vs. Clinton) in 2016 got their news from... Unfortunately Fox (and now many further Trumpian "news" outlets) would be what we'd need to look at to understand the bias that actually matters in Presidential elections, no?

Expand full comment

I wonder about what I would describe as the 'both sides' bias, the idea that instead of searching for facts to determine the truth about a situation, news media just seeks the view of 'both sides'. If one side is significantly more dishonest or deluded than the other, 'both sides' skews the reporting. For example, almost everything if not everything the anti-abortion movement says can be demonstrated to be untrue or completely dependent on religious faith. And I'm sure we could pick issues where the prevailing progressive viewpoint is based on false information too. But it's easier - it's certainly safer - to just do 'both sides' and let the country go to hell.

Expand full comment

"The Big Cope as the belief that Democrats would win every competitive election if only it weren’t for unfair media coverage."

I don't know what world you're living in Nate, but The Big Cope sounds like a larger Republicans symptom. A victimization mentality has infected the GOP on nearly every level.

Expand full comment

When Trump ran for the GOP nomination in 2016, he was only one of 17 candidates.

The mainstream media gave him more than TWICE the coverage it gave the other 16 candidates COMBINED. Then it marveled at how unstoppable he was!

They didn’t just put their thumb on the scale, the jumped on with both ass cheeks while they bounced up and down.

HRC was oblivious in a bubble of her yes-underlings, ignoring the alarm bells going off in MI, PA and WI for months. Late in October she was balking at making appearances in MI and WI because Obama had made those Blue States. If she made appearances there the media might pounce on her and say in was a sign of weakness. You know what else is a sign of weakness? Losing those states on Election Day!

Expand full comment

As a Gen Zer, it seems remarkably obvious that if the Democrats stopped whining about the media and just did their best to actually deliver on the promises they made to my generation to get us to vote for them, they wouldn't have to worry about coverage favorable or unfavorable. But alas they have taken the Republican strategy of just shouting 'fake news' and saying 'the other party is worse' when confronted about their failures. The DNC will blame EVERYONE else but Biden if Biden loses in November, and it's so obvious to anyone with a brain.

Expand full comment
Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Hi Nate, I've long loved your work and own the Signal and the Noise, but I'm commenting for the first time because I need to express that this piece is perhaps the weakest of yours I've read - it does not have the rigor youre known for. I'm admittedly on the liberal side, but my points are valid nonetheless. You may be right or wrong, but your thinking here is not consistent; indeed, it seems you began with a premise and worked backwards to try to justify it:

1. By your own source, Hunter was not censored by the Indigo blob, the story had only limited censoring on Facebook;

2. Discussing "Cancel Culture" at all is not a strong decision - there are MANY definitions (are angry tweets being "cancelled"? A Nazi not being allowed to speak at a college? Someone being rightfully fired for sexual impropriety at work?);

3. Implying cancel culture is solely a liberal issue here is disingenuous - while yes, the right has pinned it on them, the right utilizes it equally as much (coffee cups, kneeling and the NFL, book banning/author cancelling, Disney, Bud Light, Taylor Swift, etc.);

4. Your Memeoradnum "data" is almost irrelevant - saying that the top news story is about a literal war instead of, say, Kevin Hart not being allowed to present an awards show because of "cancel culture" is a wildly inconsistent way to try to prove a paper is overly liberal - Hart should never be the top story over a war but who knows, he may very well be, say, the second story;

5. Similarly, Biden's age - yes he's old, but Trump is nearly indistinguishably old, and neither is a "breaking" story, so why would either either be a top news story when there's nothing new to report?

6. We dont know if deplatforming Trump on Twitter "worked" (depending on how you define worked), but it surely minimized his reach, and your "data" simply showing approval ratings is, frankly, poor journalism and worse science. We all know what confounders are, and approval ratings would require a novel to list out them all out;

7. "There is a lot of Trump coverage in the mainstream media. A lot, most of it quite negative." Yes, he has 91 criminal charges and started an insurrection! This is extremely odd - even highly biased - phrasing for you to use given that context;

8. Lastly, I think the very premise of the "The Big Cope" is a straw man - very few people think that simple unbalanced media coverage across the board is the problem, but instead, it's the more nuanced idea that a subsection of people are wrapped tightly in an impenetrable bubble of disinformation via Fox, Facebook/Twitter, OAN/Newsmax, Joe Rogan, etc.

The issue is NOT "are mainstream newspapers slightly left of center," but :

a) the extreme amount of censoring and outright mis/disinformation on rightwing outlets(and evidence against an incorrect belief heard once takes roughly 6 instances of being refuted to be updated in one's head, so there is an imbalance); paired with

b) the fact that many people get their news SOLELY from those sources. (While liberals may be in a bubble, as well, I'd argue it's far less intense, as, e.g., the NYTimes is nowhere near as extreme as those rightwing sources, and the bubble still receives far-right ideas via Facebook, Twitter, from Trump/MTG/Boebert/etc., and opinion pieces.) If these widely held beliefs are wrong, that would be a great piece for you to write! Also: will you write a similar article assessing how the Trump indictments have been (not) covered by the "Maroon Blob"?

Nate, in general, I love your work and visited 538 nearly daily when you were there. Truly great stuff. But this piece shows a lack of attention to detail, a use of incomplete data to justify an idea you'd previously developed, and a very weak use of data. You have reach and power to influence people, so please, continue to provide criticism of both sides, but use it wisely: it must be stronger than this! Looking forward to it

Expand full comment

Great article but I have to quibble with you regurgitating the Dem talking points on the border bill failure. The GOP demanded we close the border, this bill doesn't even come close to doing that. Whether or not Trump said anything about it this would still be the case and it still wouldn't have the votes. They want their Ukraine forever war funding? Attach it to HR2 and watch the law get approved quickly. Hell, Trump would probably come out and support it. A huge win for everyone except those who want to keep importing illegals for whatever purpose.

Expand full comment

I think that the methodology here is flawed: the vast majority of people do not read the NY Times on paper or by going to the website. They click through from a link to a specific article that is shared on social media, usually not by someone that the NY Times has any influence over.

The only scale that the NY Times can put its finger on is the absolute number of articles published on a particular story. It doesn't matter if they're A1-above-the-fold, because there is no fold and no A1 any more. They can't bury a story any more other than by not publishing it at all.

And I think there is a fair criticism that - because conservatives are much better at sticking to a single story and finding new angles on it - a single story will generate more articles than a typical liberal narrative. And if you take the position that 50 articles running on one story, which reinforce each other, are more effective than many hundreds of articles each being the only article on a different story (which is, at least, a plausible position), then I can see a case for saying that the NY Times' news judgement is biased in a conservative direction. This is the "have you written the same story 100 times? Only then have you written the story at all" position.

That would imply that the NY Times should maintain a leaderboard (internally) on how many articles it has run on each story and question whether that aligns with its internal perception of the importance of the stories. I don't think you could operate a newsroom like that, but it's not wholly impossible.

But I think there's another factor. It's not even the number of stories, it's the ones that go viral. And one thing that will consistently help NY Times stories go viral is being elevated by conservatives, because to a conservative the fact that "even the liberal" NY Times is running a story elevates it to something real and not just a conservative-media-only story, and thus makes it more convincing. The NY Times running a story that conforms to a liberal narrative is expected and therefore gains little or no traction for the fact the NY Times ran it, even from liberals. It has to get traction for just the content of the story.

The problem, for liberals, is that there are very few examples of "even the conservative" Fox News running a story that conforms to a liberal narrative and lots of examples of the NY Times conforming to a conservative narrative. That means that they can't respond in kind.

But, if you write that out as a prescription, unlike the "leaderboard of stories", it calls for the NY Times to refuse to run any story that can be used by a conservative to reinforce a conservative narrative. This is absolutely a demand for the Times to be ideologically disciplined as liberal media. It's an "if a GOP representative tweets out a story we ran, we should pull the story and be ashamed of that fact" position. And when you actually write that as a specific demand, it's instantly apparent why the NY Times is never going to do that.

Expand full comment

Nice bait and switch. First paragraphs had me going there, Nate. But immediately after that it was punch left as always.

Never change, man, never change.

Expand full comment

I'm inclined to agree on personal bias, I'm not sure the Memeorandom an NYT listings are persuasive if it's just listing the most important story. It could still be that these topics get too much currency in their zone of importance. A topic like "cancel culture" was unlikely to ever make the front page of the NYT without a specific scandal being national newsworthy.

Expand full comment

Wow! Reading the comments, y'all are batshit crazy.

Expand full comment

To claim that Trump catalyzed a populist reaction in the US is to ignore Brexit, Boris Johnson, Urban, Duterte, Bolsonaro and more recently Wilders and Milei.

Given the plethora of examples from abroad I think it's more technically correct to say that Trump is the American expression of a populist movement that is sweeping the planet. There are other important dimensions (the gender divide in Western Europe with men trending conservative while women trend liberal, for example) that the rest of the world shares with the United States.

Expand full comment