Western Journal rips New York Times for its feature on conservative site

The Western Journal slammed the New York Times last week for publishing what it called an “attempt to smear” the conservative website in a lengthy feature that eventually required the Gray Lady to issue multiple corrections.

The Times published on Thursday an extensive feature that explored how big tech “pummeled traffic to The Western Journal and other partisan news sites” because of efforts to crack down on “clickbait and disinformation.”

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The piece said The Western Journal, based outside Phoenix, “curates reality,” “has no Washington bureau” and “rarely dispatches reporters into the world to gather news firsthand.” The Times admitted the Western Journal was “not quite a household name” but still enlisted Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nick Confessore to help investigate the conservative news outlet because of its Facebook reach.

“The Western Journal has been among the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers,” Confessore and senior editor Justin Bank wrote.

The Western Journal editor-in-chief George Upper told Fox News he was “disappointed with the tone” of the feature about his website but not surprised.

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“It was about what we expected. It's The New York Times, and we're conservatives, so we weren't expecting a Valentine's Day card. We were more disappointed with the quality of the piece -- they worked on it for something like a year, but the piece contained factual errors and a large number of typos. What it didn't contain was any new information to speak of,” Upper said.

“We fully expected The Times to come at us with guns blazing; we were surprised to see them firing blanks,” Upper added.

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Times examined three years’ worth of Facebook posts by The Western Journal, which the paper reported “earned three-quarters of a billion shares, likes and comments,” walloping most mainstream media organizations. However, the traffic has trended downward since Facebook and other technology companies began cracking down and changing algorithms.

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The Western Journal responded to the Times with an editorial headlined, “NYT’s attempt to smear the Western Journal’s credibility fails even the most basic fact checks.”

The Western Journal said it was a web site that “focuses on topics that Heartland Americans care about,” billing itself as a “values-based news organization.”

Upper blasted the Times, writing that assigning a high-profile reporter such as Confessore to investigate the website was simply “a compliment to how influential The Times believes The Western Journal to be” or “how scared the establishment is that President Donald Trump” will win re-election by tapping into modern media.

The Western Journal charged Confessore “carefully selected his own facts and omitted others, misconstruing — or perhaps simply misunderstanding — what The Western Journal does, who we are, and who we try to be.”

Confessore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Upper then listed a series of what he considered mistakes peppered throughout the Times’ report. Three of the mistakes pointed out have since been corrected by the paper, ranging from the year the website hired copy editors to how long staffers had to file a story. Upper insisted he didn’t mind the Times attacking his site, but he objected to the way it unfolded.

“I don't for one moment begrudge The Times its attempts to engage readers with information they care about, of course,” Upper told Fox News. “But, it would be more palatable if they'd do it with a little less hypocrisy.”