Like a Virgo: How The Times Covers Astrology
The paper’s analysis of the zodiac is practical and deliberate.
“We cover it because people have made it newsworthy,” said Choire Sicha, the editor of The Times’s Styles section, which reports on cultural trends and has published many of the recent articles on astrology. “It is a so frequently used part of people’s Instagram lives and online lives.”
Astrology, as a subject, has appeared throughout The Times archives for decades. In the early 20th century, the topic was grouped in the same category as ghost stories, told to amuse readers; later, it contributed shock value and a sense of satire to political and news stories, like a series of articles written about the use of astrologers by Nancy Reagan, the former first lady.
“It was filed under ‘Superstition and Witchcraft,’ which means The Times didn’t hold much weight to what was written in the stars,” said Jeff Roth, who manages the files of newspaper clippings in The Times’s morgue.
Although many newspapers run a horoscope column, The Times never has. Mr. Roth said he believes this is because it is not supported by science.
Today, astrology articles go through the same vetting as articles involving experimental beauty, wellness, internet culture or drugs, and editors acknowledge when there is no scientific evidence to back up a trend.
The New York Times, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, p. 2, excerpt, (italics mine)
The truth is worth it.
Piecing together the facts. Vetting sources. Connecting the details. The New York Times applies journalistic rigor to every topic we cover, in our mission to deliver what is critical to democracy — independent journalism with an unwavering commitment to the truth.
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Not when it comes to astrology. The NYT takes the most superficial and biased approach to astrology. No rigor on this topic. Commitment to truth? It shows the Times as deeply biased by mainstream thinking and avoiding any controversy.
Letter written to the NYT on Sept. 11, 2019, and published online
Mr. Roth says he believes the Times does not cover astrology because it is not supported by science. By the same token, religion and the arts are also not supported by science but are readily covered. Astrology never claimed to be a science, it is a field of the humanities (as are religion and the arts) and has its own critical standards and methodology. The constellation in the horoscope is treated like a text to be interpreted. That is what a serious astrologer does. Printed horoscopes are worthless and their only purpose is entertainment. But they foster the stigma that astrology carries among the 'educated'. How easy to chuckle and feel superior rather than have the courage to engage with the subject honestly. It is like the accused is found guilty before trial. The Times claims to investigate truthfully, here is a chance to engage.