Shruggy added to a photo by Jimmy Baikovicius, Creative Commons license 2.0

When the New York Times is at its best, it's out there breaking important news, winning Pulitzers, and doing innovative, even genuinely moving graphic design on its front page. And when it's not at its best, it's today, when the Times tossed up this dog's breakfast of a front page.

As Carolyn Fiddler said on the Twitters, "Turns out you can fuck up coverage of Trump teargassing peaceful protesters without using the church photo op pic."


That banner headline, with its Implicit acceptance of the Trumpian worldview — CHAOS SPREADS! TRUMP ENDS IT NOW! (the exclamation points are implied) — is bad enough. Trump vs. Chaos, which do YOU choose? Then there's the subhed on the right: "Protests in 140 Cities Bring 5 Deaths and Thousands of Arrests," as if protesting were in itself a deadly, criminal activity. You have to read the story to learn the deaths occurred at various times over the weekend: The shooting by police of David McAtee in Louisville; two people killed by unknown assailants as they were leaving a protest in Davenport, Iowa; a black man shot to death by a white bar owner in Omaha in what the local DA found to be self-defense; and a man in St. Louis who was "dragged to his death on Saturday morning beneath a FedEx truck that was apparently trying to drive away from protesters, officials said." Not exactly a pattern of mayhem, but when added to those "thousands of arrests" (some probably justified, some probably bullshit on a par with arresting CNN's Omar Jimenez for reporting while black), it sure sounds scary. And conveniently avoids the role of violent, militarized police in making matters far worse.

You want soft-peddling? Get a load of this photo caption:

It's actually a pretty strong photo: The sad flowers for a local restaurateur at the feet of cops or soldiers in battle dress. But its impact is wholly undercut by that caption: "A memorial for David McAtee, a local business owner who was killed on Monday." Holy exoneration by passive voice, Batman!

Maybe an editor wanted to avoid saying "killed by police (none of whom had activated their body cams)" because the shooting is still under investigation, but there's no disputing where the bullets came from. Just as Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, it didn't just happen out there without someone doing the shooting.

But the page's crowning shame is the hed for this story on racial disparities in Minneapolis, especially in policing. It's a well-written piece on the contrast between the city's self-image and some ugly realities. And it sure as hell needed a better headline than "Chasm of Race in Minneapolis, Liberal Bastion," which sounds more like something you'd find on Fox: Liberals are the biggest racists of all! With more room to play with online, the web version's headline is better able to suggest the story's complexity: "How Minneapolis, One of America's Most Liberal Cities, Struggles With Racism." (It's a pretty good read, too; we learn that the city has a civilian review board for the police — but that to get the thing put in place, it was defanged, and can't actually change police policy.)

Still, today's Times front page could be worse. It's free, for instance, of both Tom Friedman and David Brooks, and for that, let us give thanks.

[NYT (pdf cover) / NYT / NYT / Photo: Shruggy added to original by Jimmy Baikovicius, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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