Journalism Ethics Group Silent About Biggest Controversy in Years

What does The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter Institute for Media Studies, founded in 2019 to advance ethical standards in the media, have to say about the on-going controversy regarding The 1619 Project?

It has been silent, even though this is the single biggest controversy involving journalism ethics in many years.

The center on Wednesday ran a story on its web site that promised a “deeper look” into the controversy surrounding The 1619 Project. The story regurgitated some clashing viewpoints without taking the obvious step of interpreting the issues in the context of journalism ethics. The Poynter Institute earlier ran a story lauding The 1619 Project as a “phenomenal piece of journalism.”

Historians and journalists have criticized falsehoods and apparent ethical lapses in the NYT series, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of slaves arriving in America. Among other things:

  • The series is based on the demonstrably false premise that a primary reason America fought the Revolutionary War was to perpetuate slavery. This, after the NYT’s own expert argued vigorously the proposition was false.
  • The NYT refused to make corrections, instead issuing a begrudging “clarification” that “some” columnists primarily fought to defend slavery, without supporting that claim.
  • Quillette disclosed the NYT made stealth edits to the project in response to fierce criticism. The series claimed that 1619, not 1776, was America’s “true founding.” That passage has disappeared without announcement or correction.
  • The series editor, Nikole Hannah Jones, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary by a seven-member jury panel that included a NYT editorial writer and despite the fact a major premise of her essay was incorrect.
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