"As soon as Republicans started quibbling over the definition of torture, traditional media outlets felt compelled to treat the issue as a "controversial" matter, and in order to appear as though they weren't taking a side, media outlets treated the issue as unsettled, rather than confronting a blatant falsehood."
Incredibly, the New York soon thereafter admitted to being chickenshit over the issue-- but tried to rationalize their way out of it (quoted by Yahoo News):
"As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture. When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture."
What some people are forgetting is that waterboarding wouldn't be considered newsworthy if it weren't generally accepted as torture to begin with. For years, the New York Times wrote stories about waterboarding specifically because it was torture (and actually used the term "torture") but it abandoned its journalistic principles because some dipshit president tried to change the rules midstream. Isn't this what we expect journalists to do-- call elected officials on their BS?