The 1619 Project Fails Traditional Standards of Journalism Ethics

The New York Times recently assured us that The 1619 Project meets its highest standards of journalism.

But, like much about the series itself, that statement is subject to dispute.

The Times 8/14/19 series on the first black “slaves” to arrive in America in 1619 violates at least two of central tenets of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists.


The SPJ code tells journalists to:

 Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it.

Project Editor Nikole Hannah Jones introductory essay stated “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”

Five of America’s most distinguished historians, including two Pulitzer Prize winners, complained in December the statement was “not true.” Moreover, they wrote, “Some of the other material in the project is distorted, including the claim that ‘for the most part,’ black Americans have fought their freedom struggles ‘alone.’ They also complained the series misrepresents President Abraham Lincoln.

NYT Magazine Editor Jake Silverstein on 12/20/19 rejected the historians’ criticism, insisting the statement was correct and grounded in historical record. The NYT refused to write a correction.

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