If a news organization, be it newspaper, magazine, radio or television, gives space or time to a political figure, does that necessarily imply an endorsement of that person?
Does it mean the outlet agrees with what the person says?
Those are questions many people have been asking since The New York Times recently published an editorial from Russian President Vladimir Putin a former officer in the notorious KGB, otherwise known as the Committee for State Security in English.
Editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal says the editorial was relevant and well written, and because it expresses the views of a major player in the crisis in Syria, he decided it was worthy of publication.
But these kinds of questions come up every time when American media publish statements from “the enemy.” And, they are nothing new.
For example, Time magazine was severely criticized for naming Adolph Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, as its Man of the Year in 1938, Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin twice, in 1939 and 1942, and Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, in 1979.
Putin, by the way, was Man of the Year in 2007.
Likewise, critics routinely say we should not give space or time to terrorists. In every case, many people contend this kind of publicity represents an endorsement, rather than in recognition of their global influence.
But bad actors can certainly have an important impact.
After all, terrorists are very bad people, but no one can deny their influence on world affairs, and thus the importance of their messages.
Critics have said Putin’s comments were hypocritical, distortions and outright lies. The Times has been accused of aiding and abetting the enemy, as well as being disloyal to Americans.
However, there is also no doubt the comments have sparked further debate on the Syrian crisis.
For years, we have heard the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” The New York Times has relayed an important message from a head of state.
We can criticize the message and the messenger, but there is no doubt the message is an important one that needs to be heard.
And it has certainly acted as a springboard for much-needed discussion.