Why is the New York Times afraid of MSNBC?

Nervous that critics might view the paper as too partisan and too liberal, The New York Times has told some of its reporters to stay off MSNBC, and specifically off Rachel Maddow's award-winning program in prime time. MSNBC president Phil Griffin sat down with Times executive editor Dean Baquet in hopes of smoothing things over, but no agreement was reached, CNN reported. “Baquet and other managers have become increasingly concerned that if a Times reporter were to go on one of these shows, his or her appearance could be perceived as being aligned with that show’s political leanings,” Vanity Fair recently noted. Read: The Times is nervous about being tagged as progressive.  

Why, amidst the never-ending crisis that Donald Trump represents to this country and to journalism, would Times editors focus their attention on sparking a feud with a cable news channel, not over content but over booking guests? Instead of banding together with major news outlets to combat Trump's unprecedented war on the free press (“Enemies of the people!”), the Times is pulling reporters off MSNBC because of optics? And because of optics that only conservatives care about?

And that is key: The whole policy seems designed as a way for nervous Times editors to inoculate the paper from more accusations of “liberal media bias.” The paper is foolishly  altering long-standing policy in desperate hopes that right-wing critics will back off the newspaper. Yet that just proves that the editors have no idea how the “liberal media bias” game works, since those allegations are launched with no regard to honest debate or facts. In fact, Fox News has feasted on stories of the daily newspaper snubbing MSNBC: “The New York Times didn’t want its reporters appearing on Maddow's show, because she was too far left.”