Skip to main content

Jeffrey Epstein Story in the New York Times Is Very, Very Strange

  • Author:
  • Updated:

We keep re-reading the story on Jeffrey Epstein in the New York Times, trying to decide what it is that makes it read so queer. It’s not just that it took the paper so long to come around with a story. It’s not just that this story appears now with almost no breaking news hook. There’s something weird about the structure of the thing.
The headline. “Questions of Preferential Treatment Are Raised in Sex Case Against Money Manager” We’re already off onto a meta-story story here. A more straight forward report would be headed “Accusations of Sex Crimes Made Against Money Manager.” The Times, however, goes with the secondary question—whether or not Epstein is getting preferential treatment in the case.

The lede.
Abby Goodnough begins not with the charges against Epstein but with the image of police sneaking around through his garbage and phone records. This is how you might begin a screenplay about Epstein but in a news story, well, it has the effect of pushing Epstein’s alleged misdeeds into the background.

The body.
In what follows, the Times devotes a total of 437 words to the allegations against Epstein, around 250 words to allegations that Epstein received preferential treatment and around 236 words to quoting or summarizing the arguments of Epstein’s lawyers. So, if the story itself is pretty balanced between the actual allegations and the allegations about the allegations, why does the headline and the lead imply the real story here is about the treatment of Epstein rather than what he’s alleged to have done?
Maybe the possibility of a corrupt prosecution is more interesting to the Times but surely it deserves to be placed behind the coverage of the allegations themselves. Are ink-and-paper journalists so convinced that the "cover-up is worse than the crime" that they don't care so much about the crimes anymore?
Look. We’re glad the Times finally decided the story was fit to print—although we wonder what could have possibly taken them so long. And what’s more, we wonder why they’re coverage is so, well, poorly focused.
[DealBreaker's Jeff Epstein Archive]