THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2024
We'd call this misleading reporting: Michael Grynbaum isn't some inexperienced kid. Also, he went to one of the finest schools!
Let it be said that he's also a good, decent person. He thumbnails himself as shown:
Michael M. Grynbaum
I’m a media correspondent for The New York Times.
I write about the intersection of media, politics and culture: how the news industry shapes and reflects the changing world around us. I am particularly interested in coverage of presidents and presidential campaigns, and the future of television and cable news.
I’ve been writing about media for The Times since 2016. Before that, I served as the paper’s City Hall bureau chief, covering two New York City mayors. Since joining The Times as an intern in 2007, I’ve reported on presidential campaigns, the 2008 financial crash and the New York City subway system.
I grew up outside Hartford, Conn., and graduated from Harvard College with a degree in history and literature. I now live in Manhattan.
There you have it. He's been at the Times since 2007. He graduated from Harvard that very year.
Not that there's anything wrong with it! That said, his analysis piece in today's New York Times may help explain why members of our nation's red tribe place little real faith in the Times.
With today's MEDIA piece by Grynbaum, the Times is exploring the Taylor Swift matter again! On each of the past two mornings, the Times had news report about Swift on the front page of the print edition.
Today, Grynbaum's piece has been dispatched to page A16. Print edition headline included, his report begins like this:
Staying Silent, Swift Sends Fox News Hosts Into Tizzy
Taylor Swift has not uttered a word about the 2024 presidential election. But the mere prospect that the pop superstar could endorse President Biden has sent conservatives on Fox News into conniptions.
“Why would someone as popular as she is alienate your fans, the Swifties?” Jeanine Pirro said on “The Five,” before addressing the singer directly. “So don’t get involved! Don’t get involved in politics! We don’t want to see you there!”
“Please don’t believe everything Taylor Swift says,” urged one commentator, Charly Arnolt. “We’re all begging you.”
And Sean Hannity, using his prime-time soapbox on Tuesday evening, suggested that Democrats were leading Ms. Swift astray. “Does Taylor realize the guy that they want her to endorse is a kind of stumbling, bumbling mess?” he asked.
So the report began. In Grynbaum's analysis, Swift's possible endorsement of Biden has sent Fox News personnel into a tizzy. Either that, or they've just been sent into conniptions.
In our view, Charly Arnolt is a script-reading empty vessel. Judge Jeanine is an inveterate loudmouth and brawler.
Still and all, based on the examples Grynbaum provides, his language seems a bit overstated to us. It doesn't seem real "journalistic."
It sounds a bit like an entertainment / reassurance package designed for blue tribe subscribers Later, though, we began to wonder what planet Grynbaum is on:
Ms. Arnolt, sounding alarmed, told the Fox anchor Martha MacCallum that when Ms. Swift encouraged her fans to vote in a social media post, it yielded 35,000 new registrations. Voters “need to be careful because she doesn’t do what she says,” Ms. Arnolt said, noting that Ms. Swift flies on a private plane, “yet she constantly talks about climate change.” It was the sort of eco-scolding that rarely turns up on a cable network whose guests often voice skepticism about global warming.
For starters, did Arnolt really tell MacCallum "that when Ms. Swift encouraged her fans to vote in a social media post, it yielded 35,000 new registrations?"
If so, it's because that's what it said in a front-page report in the New York Times that very day. We would have gone with "noted the fact," rather than with the much fuzzier, more suggestive "told."
Much more strangely, the sort of "eco-scolding" that Grynbaum cites shows up on Fox pretty much all the time! It's an accusation of liberal hypocrisy with respect to climate issues.
It's an accusation of liberal hypocrisy, or even of liberal dishonesty about climate change. It's not a call for eco-awareness.
This is crappy journalism. Having said that, we were especially struck by this later passage about Hannity, who still plays the role of name-calling king of aggression on Fox's air every night:
Mr. Hannity, who has pronounced himself “not a Swiftie,” drew a connection on Tuesday between Ms. Swift and one of Fox News’s favorite boogeymen: George Soros, the financier and Democratic donor. He aired an old clip in which Ms. Swift said that Mr. Soros’s son Alex helped fund the sale of her song catalog to the producer Scooter Braun. “Does Taylor actually realize that the Soroses, they’re huge donors to left-wing and Democratic causes?” Mr. Hannity asked.
For what it's worth, Hannity's report of what Swift once said was factually accurate, in that he played the videotape of Swift's formal statement.
In that formal statement, Swift specifically referred to "the Soros family," and it was clear that she was criticizing them for what she seemed to regard as some sort of misconduct. It seems to us that Grynbaum aggressively smoothed that part of what Swift once said.
That said, we were perhaps most struck by the statement that Hannity has pronounced himself "not a Swiftie"—that Hannity has so declared, full and complete total stop.
We haven't been able to find the place where Hannity made some such declaration. But on his program Monday night, we ourselves saw him say this:
HANNITY (3/29/24): First of all, I like Taylor Swift. I don't like the way some people have been talking about her, treating her. I wish her and Travis Kelce the best.
She's a pretty amazing young woman. I mean, she writes her own songs, she does 40-plus songs in her concerts. She's great to her fans, she gives big bonuses to her crew. She's got a lot of great qualities...
That's what he said about Swift and Kelce, and about their romance. At this point, he transitioned to his standard bombast, saying he hopes that she'll be shown videotape of "Creepy Joe" and "Incoherent Joe," just so she'll know who and what she's endorsing.
Hannity is a warrior of red tribe insult and bombast, not to mention misinformation. But he praised Swift on Monday night, and said nothing negative about her on his Tuesday night program.
She wasn't mentioned on Wednesday night. Last September, when the romance and the trashing began, Hannity even said this about that, Mediaite headline included:
Hannity Defends Taylor Swift: ‘I Kind of Hate People, You Know, Hating On Her’
"I want to say something before we get—ok, you know what? I look at Taylor Swift— if I picked my music based on their politics, I’d have five choices. Let’s be honest. You know, country, Christian contemporary, which are my favorite, but I admire her talent. She writes all her songs, she does these shows that have like nearly 50 songs, you know, sets in them...
"She’s a great businesswoman, seems like a lovely girl, extraordinarily nice to her fans, and I kind of hate people, you know, hating on her."
He also offered this:
"I know that Travis is woke, and he’s Bud Light, and he’s for the Covid shot. I just, you know what, if you want to listen and get advice from a football player, I don’t care. Or a pop star. I don’t care where you get your advice. We live in a free country, they are entitled to their views, as much as I might disagree. But I can also recognize talent and they’re both enormously talented. How’s this? I wish them the best, I hope it works for them."
We thought Grynbaum's reporting was largely misleading. To our eye and ear, it had the definite feel of blue tribe subscriber maintenance from a temporarily flyweight blue rag.
Hannity is an inveterate name-caller and a purveyor of red tribe attack. There's a tremendous amount to criticize, correct and challenge about his nightly conduct. That's been true for the past twenty-five years.
The New York Times rarely plays that role. The Times typically sticks its head in the sand, then peeps out with pabulum like this.
Hannity is a highly unreliable attack dog and a dedicated name caller. But even as he has trashed "Creepy Joe," he's said nothing negative about Taylor Swift. In fact, he's done quite the opposite.
Grynbaum went to one of the finest schools. Sifting the content of his report in a manner designed to please, he writes for our greatest newspaper—for a newspaper of the blue tribe.
Red tribe members who see work of this type will often see it for what it is. We belong to the blue tribe ourselves, but we think this report was largely blue silo, and we don't think this stroking helps.
It makes us think we're in good hands. Just for the record, we aren't.