Communication and Journalism



Document Type



media ethics, discourse analysis, The New York Times, journalistic standards


On the morning of May 26, 2004, New York Times readers found a note from the paper’s editors on Page A10. The headline read “From the Editors – The Times and Iraq,” and the 1,000-word article that followed served as a disclosure that the Times had failed in its duty of both aggressive information gathering and careful reporting with a critical eye. Response to the note was fast and widespread as newspeople across the country commented on the paper’s public admission of its flawed coverage. The editors’ note, together with the responses it generated, provides a glimpse into the state of American journalism and the way those enmeshed in it understand and expect the practice to operate. Beyond serving a descriptive purpose, however, the texts of the note and the responses can be used to start a discourse in the normative realm, to offer suggestions for how our understanding of journalism perhaps ought to change to better reflect the reality of what is truly a human institution. This paper provides both a descriptive and normative analysis of two themes that emerge within the New York Times editors’ note and the subsequent responses that it prompted. First, the failure at the Times seems to add another notch to the credibility crisis in which U.S. journalism currently finds itself. The disclosure and responses reveal new concerns about the press and its performance. While the first trend illuminates problems, the second illustrates progress by demonstrating that the press, or at least one of its most important organizations, recognizes that it is a fallible, human institution and one that should – is perhaps even morally required to – communicate with is audiences about the process of newstelling. It is through precedent-setting cases like this one that journalists can step back, take a look at their practice, and then continue moving forward in a landscape that is constantly in flux.

Published in

International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Citation/Other Information

Wyatt-Barger, W. (2005). True confessions of The New York Times: Making moral meaning from the discourse of flawed Iraq coverage. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 19:1. 27-44.