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Newspaper Etiquette 101: Don't Mislead Your Audience

The National Herald Archive

On August 5, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Matthaios Tsimitakis titled The Adults Are Back in Charge of Greece. And They Are Really Right-Wing: The return of order is proving to be the return of the right.

Tsimitakis, who was identified by the Times as merely a “Greek journalist,” went on a passive-aggressive lecture about Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his “right wing party with pronounced authoritarian tendencies.” The piece, or propaganda-like tirade, was so incredibly biased, that it caught the attention of Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

As a news agency focused on all things Greek – domestic and foreign alike – it is our job to scour all publications – especially those with worldwide influence and readership, like the New York Times – for articles pertaining to our homeland. When one of these publications writes something about Greece, we trust that they have conducted their due diligence, but we nevertheless verify their facts and more importantly, their sources.

The New York Times has been around for 168 years. It has published thousands and thousands of opinion pieces – some more biased than others – as is their right to help showcase various viewpoints on the happenings of the world.

But what is stunning is that this newspaper, with its rich history and abundant experience, made the most basic publication mistake: it failed to inform its readers of who was really writing the opinion piece published under its iconic masthead.

A quick Google search of Matthaios Tsimitakis’ name refutes the premise that Tsimitakis is just a run-of-the-mill ‘Greek journalist’. In fact, Tsimitakis served as a former employee of Alexis Tsipras – and on further inspection, served in the press office of Tsipras while he was Prime Minister of Greece.

How did the Times miss this? Due diligence on authors and sources is newspaper etiquette 101. This is not responsible journalism and not what people expect from a newspaper like the New York Times.

Coincidentally, on the same day that this article was published, John Catsimatidis was a guest on Steve Forbes’ (Chairman & Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media) podcast, “What’s Ahead”.

The conversation between the two media moguls flowed like a conversation between two old friends. They spoke about a variety of topics – including Catsimatidis’ recent purchase of WABC radio station.

They spoke about its broadcast reach and why it was first established: to communicate the news to the citizens of the United States.

Forbes asked Catsimatidis why he wanted to invest in the radio station, despite its less than stellar financial performance. Catsimatidis had a very simple but profound answer: “Media is here to stay. The company is losing money but I am willing to write the check because it is a great asset – an asset worth saving…We need to bring back the distinction between news and opinion. Now nobody believes nobody.”

He is exactly right. Media is an asset – but when seemingly reliable news sources are making amateur mistakes, they are causing their readers a severe injustice and quite possibly doing much more harm than good.

Although the Times published Tsimitakis’ piece as an ‘opinion’, it is natural for someone to read the piece differently and to draw wildly distinct conclusions when it is written by a “Greek journalist” (i.e., it could be mistaken as news) as opposed to when it is written by a “Greek journalist who served in the press office of Tsipras while he was Prime Minister of Greece” (i.e., will be regarded as opinion).

Even though the Times later added a note more properly identifying Tsimitakis, the damage had been done.