Michael Goodwin, this semes­ter’s Pulliam Fellow, recently spoke about the downfall of the New York Times. JULIA MULLINS | COURTESY

In Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises,”  one char­acter asks, “How did you go bankrupt?” The other replies, “Two ways: grad­ually, and then sud­denly.” According to Michael Goodwin, the decline of one of the world’s most famous news­papers could be described the same way. 

Goodwin, chief political columnist at the New York Post, gave a lecture titled, “The Downfall of the New York Times” on Oct. 24. He shared his opinion about the decline of the once-trusted news­paper, using knowledge he gathered over the sixteen years he worked there. Goodwin was on campus for the last two weeks as the Eugene C. Pulliam Dis­tin­guished Vis­iting Fellow in Jour­nalism. He taught a one-credit course on opinion journalism.

“The col­lapse of the Times that we speak of is not about dollars and cents,” Goodwin said. “It is about the col­lapse of the tra­di­tional jour­nal­istic stan­dards of fairness and restraint.” 

Goodwin said that falling stan­dards at the Times are largely respon­sible for the current state of American jour­nalism because of the paper’s power and influence. 

“The col­lapse of the Times’ stan­dards is a virus infecting jour­nalism every­where, and the public has noticed,” Goodwin said. “A poll last year found that 72% of Amer­icans believe ‘tra­di­tional major news sources report news they know to be fake, false, or pur­posely misleading.’”

Although many Amer­icans do not trust major news sources, Goodwin said this wasn’t always the case. He revealed that the Times’ own style manual says “fairness and impar­tiality should be the hallmark of all news articles and news analysis that appear in the Times.” 

Adolph Ochs, who bought the Times in 1896 when it was a strug­gling news­paper, was com­mitted to fos­tering “civil dis­course” in journalism. 

“He wanted his paper to present the news ‘in lan­guage that is par­lia­mentary in good society,’” Goodwin said. “Even adver­tise­ments had to meet his stan­dards of taste.”

Goodwin said that the Times became known as the “gray lady” because of its prim approach to lan­guage and refusal to engage in per­sonal attacks. In fact, Goodwin said that the Times was the first news­paper to start sep­a­rating news from opinion. 

“This sep­a­ration was an ingrained part of the culture at the Times when I started there in the 1970s,” Goodwin said. “I knew I was not per­mitted to express my opinions on the sub­jects of my stories.”

According to Goodwin, its current rejection of the sep­a­ration of fact and opinion led directly to the Times’ loss of public trust. 

“Why the Times still employs an edi­torial page and an op-ed page escapes me,” Goodwin said. “Vir­tually every so-called news article has reflected a bias against Trump. These days, the paper’s front page is openly pushing for impeachment.”

“There is a national crisis of con­fi­dence in all forms of media, and the Times no longer offers the solution,” Goodwin said. “It is a major part of the problem.”

John Miller, director of the Dow Jour­nalism Program at Hillsdale College, said that Goodwin has a great under­standing of the problems and con­tro­versies that sur­round the entire field of journalism. 

“It was really inter­esting to learn about the rise and fall of the Times, which is pos­sibly the most influ­ential news­paper in the country,” he said. “Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be.”

Paul Moreno, pro­fessor of history, said he wit­nessed the decline of the Times firsthand. 

“I grew up in New York when the Times was a serious news­paper,” he said. “I saw its col­lapse day by day, and I still sub­scribe to the Times, but only for the crossword puzzle.”

Moreno said he first noticed news­papers aban­doning all pre­tenses to impar­tiality during the Vietnam War. 

“Vietnam and Watergate started the adver­sarial culture in American jour­nalism and made news­papers think that they were a con­sti­tu­tional insti­tution,” he said. “They thought that they were defending our ‘democracy,’ as they call it, and they had this sense of them­selves as all-pow­erful arbiters.”

According to Moreno, the New York Times rep­re­sented a certain kind of jour­nalism that is now gone. 

“The expec­tation that a news­paper would be objective and unbiased was part of a par­ticular moment in American history,” he said. “The Times used to be the go-to place for domestic and foreign policy. I don’t get my news from them anymore.”