The division of newsroom labor into beats is a venerable practice. They’re often fairly broad in scope—police, city hall, the legislature—but the specialty of New York Times’ Sydney Ember is oddly specific: she’s working the anti-Bernie beat.
Technically, her domain is the 2020 elections, but her major focus is undermining the campaign of the democratic socialist senator from Vermont. Her reporting on Sanders goes far beyond the implicit bias that creeps into all journalism—there’s an undercurrent of hostility that’s hard to miss.
Her recent piece on Sanders’ trip to the Iowa State Fair was perhaps the most brazen to date. The New York Times pulled a clever bait-and-switch with a seemingly positive headline—“Why Bernie Sanders Stood Out at the Iowa State Fair”—that was revealed to be ironic in the first paragraph:
Bernie Sanders examined the butter cow. He power-walked by the Ferris wheel. He gobbled a corn dog.
He spoke to almost no one.
Citing unnamed local officials and “discussions with dozens of voters,” Ember erroneously suggests that Sanders is “struggling to gain traction in the state that fueled his rise.” (Note: A poll of Iowa voters released the day before her piece went to press had him tied with Biden at 17 percent.) She implies that the problem could be his “lectern-pounding, impersonal campaign style.”
Mr. Sanders’s approach to the event on Sunday — stride briskly, wave occasionally, converse infrequently — underscored how he has grounded his campaign in championing ideas rather than establishing human connections.
Sanders’ campaign staff called her out. His speechwriter David Sirota took to Twitter to point out the various grassroots efforts Sanders undertook in Iowa, including town halls as well as meetings with activist and volunteer groups. He also toured poisoned wells at family farms in rural areas.