A Solution to Bias and Trust Issues in News?

In "The Gray Lady Winked," Ashley Rindsberg criticizes the New York Times, alleging decades of bias and misinformation. His book exposes alleged misreporting, distortions, and fabrications, challenging the newspaper's credibility and historical accuracy.

Traditional media has problems. Almost no one will dispute this. For over a decade, the publishing industry has struggled to eke out profits, keep pace with new technologies and stick an IV into dying newsrooms. Local news has been gutted. Newspapers are an endangered species.

Ashley Rindsberg agrees that news media has problems, but he points to an unexpected and even shocking culprit: the New York Times. He lobbed a grenade to the nation’s flagship paper with his book, "The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times's Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History," accusing the paper of decades of bias and wrongdoings.

Ashley Rindsberg is a speaker at CoinDesk's Consensus festival in April.

The Times was “unabashedly pro-Hitler in The Thirties, serving as a sturdy fount of Dr. Goebbels propaganda” and was “unabashedly pro-Stalin in its coverage of the famine in Ukraine,” writes Rindsberg in “The Gray Lady Winked,” who then elaborates on a series of charges. “You've got a single family in control of this newspaper for 120 years,” Rindsberg said to me in a recent interview. “It's a dynasty. Their interests and their incentives are so misaligned from their reader's interests.”

I’ll admit I’m a skeptic; like most journalists I enjoy and regularly read the New York Times. I’ve written for the paper. I’m hardly unbiased. (And to be more explicit, these allegations are not ones I personally endorse.) But whatever you think of Rindsberg’s specific allegations of the paper, there’s common ground in the idea that, generally speaking, there are fundamental problems in publishing that no one has figured out how to crack.


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Rindsberg proposes a solution: Decentralized Media, or “DeMe.” What if citizen journalists were empowered and incentivized to fact-check, do more analysis and make sense of raw data and the world? Rindsberg suspects Web3 could fuel this. “The technological solution is definitely primed for blockchain,” says Rindsberg. “To create a chain of custody for facts, claims and sourcing.”

We might not agree on everything, but the two of us had a lively and respectful conversation about his critique of the New York Times, the structural problems with the space, his vision for decentralized media,and why he thinks that traditional publishing is “optimizing not for objectivity and not for ideals, but for results, page views, clicks and subscriptions.”

Interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

When you dug into your research for the book, what surprised you most?

On a general note, it was how willful and obvious some of this stuff was. I hadn’t expected that. They had a Nazi sympathizer running their Berlin bureau in World War II, and they knew it.

Or the gushing praise of the Berlin Olympics, which was this bonanza of racism and antisemitism, and the New York Times is calling it the greatest sporting event in history. That was really unexpected.

Or partnering and collaborating with the Department of War during World War II; when [the U.S.] dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, [The Times] just carried the line, the propaganda that there was no radiation poisoning.

This is a two-part question. Tackle it however you’d like. Do you view these issues at the New York Times as an example of problems that are rampant throughout all mainstream publications? Or maybe this is less about the Times and more about newspapers in general?

And the related question – can you point to another mainstream newspaper that has a better track record? Maybe if you look hard enough, and over a long enough timeframe, you’ll spot problems everywhere.

I think it’s both, in a way. There are some mechanical errors that you see, like when sourcing doesn’t actually have a source, and you see that everywhere. But the New York Times is just bigger, so in a sense it all gets magnified.