Guess how the New York Times would respond if a media critic wrote that many people believe the New York Times publishes reporters’ opinions in the guise of objective news. And that many people say the Times allows sloppy, vague, unattributed reporting to be published as facts. While few believe Times reporting is objective. I can imagine the harrumphs from the Times editorial board, with demands for proof: Who are the many? How many? What studies and solid research proves there are many whom the critic cites? And besides, there are many, not few, who believe Times reporting is objective. Or the board would simply ignore it, hoping readers and subscribers never hear the accusations.
But when the Times publishes stories saying “many” say something or “few” believe something, giving no sources, no studies, no proof, well, there is no “harrumphing” from the board and no editors who demand facts from reporters. Here’s an example, from a Jan. 30, 2017, story from Jerusalem on Trump’s proposal to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem: “While many Israelis would like to see the embassy in Jerusalem, few count it high among their priorities, and many say it is not worth risking violence now.”
Any student in a Reporting 101 class who wrote such a sentence, would get it tossed back by his editor, who would demand facts and not opinion. At least that’s what would happen when I was at journalism school.