I already told you why the NYT is a conservative newspaper, pay attention.
You said they "cheerled the country into War with Iraq." Number one, they didn't. They overstated the WMD stockpiles in Iraq, relying on a bad source. Number two, even if they did, how would that make it a conservative newspaper?
As far as proof goes, this is an entirely subjective argument just as is the claim that NYT is liberal. Now make the case that NYT is liberal assuming you think it is.
Where to start .....
Why don't we first look at what Daniel Okrent, the Public Editor for the NYT, has to say about the subject, shall we?
Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?
By DANIEL OKRENT
Published: July 25, 2004, Sunday
OF course it is.
The fattest file on my hard drive is jammed with letters from the disappointed, the dismayed and the irate who find in this newspaper a liberal bias that infects not just political coverage but a range of issues from abortion to zoology to the appointment of an admitted Democrat to be its watchdog. (That would be me.) By contrast, readers who attack The Times from the left -- and there are plenty -- generally confine their complaints to the paper's coverage of electoral politics and foreign policy.
I'll get to the politics-and-policy issues this fall (I want to watch the campaign coverage before I conclude anything), but for now my concern is the flammable stuff that ignites the right. These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed.
But if you're examining the paper's coverage of these subjects from a perspective that is neither urban nor Northeastern nor culturally seen-it-all; if you are among the groups The Times treats as strange objects to be examined on a laboratory slide (devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans); if your value system wouldn't wear well on a composite New York Times journalist, then a walk through this paper can make you feel you're traveling in a strange and forbidding world.
Start with the editorial page, so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.
Across the gutter, the Op-Ed page editors do an evenhanded job of representing a range of views in the essays from outsiders they publish -- but you need an awfully heavy counterweight to balance a page that also bears the work of seven opinionated columnists, only two of whom could be classified as conservative (and, even then, of the conservative subspecies that supports legalization of gay unions and, in the case of William Safire, opposes some central provisions of the Patriot Act).
But opinion pages are opinion pages, and ''balanced opinion page'' is an oxymoron. So let's move elsewhere. In the Sunday magazine, the culture-wars applause-o-meter chronically points left. On the Arts & Leisure front page every week, columnist Frank Rich slices up President Bush, Mel Gibson, John Ashcroft and other paladins of the right in prose as uncompromising as Paul Krugman's or Maureen Dowd's. The culture pages often feature forms of art, dance or theater that may pass for normal (or at least tolerable) in New York but might be pretty shocking in other places.
Same goes for fashion coverage, particularly in the Sunday magazine, where I've encountered models who look like they're preparing to murder (or be murdered), and others arrayed in a mode you could call dominatrix chic. If you're like Jim Chapman, one of my correspondents who has given up on The Times, you're lost in space. Wrote Chapman, ''Whatever happened to poetry that required rhyme and meter, to songs that required lyrics and tunes, to clothing ads that stressed the costume rather than the barely clothed females and slovenly dressed, slack-jawed, unshaven men?''
In the Sunday Styles section, there are gay wedding announcements, of course, but also downtown sex clubs and T-shirts bearing the slogan, ''I'm afraid of Americans.'' The findings of racial-equity reformer Richard Lapchick have been appearing in the sports pages for decades (''Since when is diversity a sport?'' one e-mail complainant grumbled). The front page of the Metro section has featured a long piece best described by its subhead, ''Cross-Dressers Gladly Pay to Get in Touch with Their Feminine Side.'' And a creationist will find no comfort in Science Times.
Not that creationists should expect to find comfort in Science Times. Newspapers have the right to decide what's important and what's not. But their editors must also expect that some readers will think: ''This does not represent me or my interests. In fact, it represents my enemy.'' So is it any wonder that the offended or befuddled reader might consider everything else in the paper -- including, say, campaign coverage -- suspicious as well?
TIMES publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. doesn't think this walk through The Times is a tour of liberalism. He prefers to call the paper's viewpoint ''urban.'' He says that the tumultuous, polyglot metropolitan environment The Times occupies means ''We're less easily shocked,'' and that the paper reflects ''a value system that recognizes the power of flexibility.''
He's right; living in New York makes a lot of people think that way, and a lot of people who think that way find their way to New York (me, for one). The Times has chosen to be an unashamed product of the city whose name it bears, a condition magnified by the been-there-done-that irony afflicting too many journalists. Articles containing the word ''postmodern'' have appeared in The Times an average of four times a week this year -- true fact! -- and if that doesn't reflect a Manhattan sensibility, I'm Noam Chomsky.
But it's one thing to make the paper's pages a congenial home for editorial polemicists, conceptual artists, the fashion-forward or other like-minded souls (European papers, aligned with specific political parties, have been doing it for centuries), and quite another to tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear. I don't think it's intentional when The Times does this. But negligence doesn't have to be intentional.
The gay marriage issue provides a perfect example. Set aside the editorial page, the columnists or the lengthy article in the magazine (''Toward a More Perfect Union,'' by David J. Garrow, May 9) that compared the lawyers who won the Massachusetts same-sex marriage lawsuit to Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King. That's all fine, especially for those of us who believe that homosexual couples should have precisely the same civil rights as heterosexuals.
But for those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it's disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading. So far this year, front-page headlines have told me that ''For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy'' (March 19); that the family of ''Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home'' (Jan. 12) is a new archetype; and that ''Gay Couples Seek Unions in God's Eyes'' (Jan. 30). I've learned where gay couples go to celebrate their marriages; I've met gay couples picking out bridal dresses; I've been introduced to couples who have been together for decades and have now sanctified their vows in Canada, couples who have successfully integrated the world of competitive ballroom dancing, couples whose lives are the platonic model of suburban stability.
Every one of these articles was perfectly legitimate. Cumulatively, though, they would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause. You wouldn't even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you'd have the makings of a life insurance commercial.
This implicit advocacy is underscored by what hasn't appeared. Apart from one excursion into the legal ramifications of custody battles (''Split Gay Couples Face Custody Hurdles,'' by Adam Liptak and Pam Belluck, March 24), potentially nettlesome effects of gay marriage have been virtually absent from The Times since the issue exploded last winter.
The San Francisco Chronicle runs an uninflected article about Congressional testimony from a Stanford scholar making the case that gay marriage in the Netherlands has had a deleterious effect on heterosexual marriage. The Boston Globe explores the potential impact of same-sex marriage on tax revenues, and the paucity of reliable research on child-rearing in gay families. But in The Times, I have learned next to nothing about these issues, nor about partner abuse in the gay community, about any social difficulties that might be encountered by children of gay couples or about divorce rates (or causes, or consequences) among the 7,000 couples legally joined in Vermont since civil union was established there four years ago.
On a topic that has produced one of the defining debates of our time, Times editors have failed to provide the three-dimensional perspective balanced journalism requires. This has not occurred because of management fiat, but because getting outside one's own value system takes a great deal of self-questioning. Six years ago, the ownership of this sophisticated New York institution decided to make it a truly national paper. Today, only 50 percent of The Times's readership resides in metropolitan New York, but the paper's heart, mind and habits remain embedded here. You can take the paper out of the city, but without an effort to take the city and all its attendant provocations, experiments and attitudes out of the paper, readers with a different worldview will find The Times an alien beast.
Taking the New York out of The New York Times would be a really bad idea. But a determination by the editors to be mindful of the weight of its hometown's presence would not.
With that, I'm leaving town. Next week, letters from readers; after that, this space will be occupied by my polymathic pal Jack Rosenthal, a former Times writer and editor whose name appeared on the masthead for 25 years. I'm going to spend August in a deck chair and see if I can once again read The Times like a civilian. See you after Labor Day.
The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His address is Public Editor, The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York 10036-3959; or e-mail: [email protected]. Telephone messages: (212) 556-7652. The public editor's column appears at least twice monthly in this section, and his Web journal can be found at nytimes.com/danielokrent.
Published: 07 - 25 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Column 1 , Page 2
Okrant concludes that the NYT does
have a liberal bias in coverage of certain social issues, gay marriage being the example he used. He concludes it's rather obvious, but it's also completely legitimate. The Times' publisher won't call it liberalism, but prefers to call this bias an "urban viewpoint," reflecting its cosmopolitan nature as the hometown newspaper of New York City.
From the New Republic
... Dems' slightly elevated view of the media translates into deeper anxiety about how they are portrayed in it. "There's no question that we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out The New York Times," says Carter Eskew, a top adviser to Al Gore in 2000. "When there's a bad story in the Times, it creates all sorts of incredible tumult and turmoil. I can remember in 2000, several times we had absolutely horrible process stories on the front page, and they were debilitating." (A debilitated campaign then prompts more bad press, which leads to more turmoil.) In part, the problem is cultural, posits Eskew. "Democrats are people who basically grew up going to the beach in the summer, and their parents had reserved a copy of the Times at the local supermarket. It was an important thing. They can still remember the excitement at seeing what was on the cover of the Sunday magazine." For these folks, the paper of record looms larger than life.
The Bushies, conversely, are famous for their antipathy toward the Times in particular and the "elite" (versus local) press in general. (Vice President Dick Cheney has blacklisted Times reporters from his campaign plane and has been extremely choosy about which reporters from other outlets are allowed onboard.) The Bush team respects the power of the elite press to drive coverage but frets less about individual stories, in part because their core supporters tend to care less. "The president's base are not readers of The New York Times anyway," says Fleischer. More broadly, he notes, if you don't think of the media as some exalted entity, you don't get as upset "when it bites you."
Which brings us to "liberal media bias." Survey after survey shows that more journalists identify themselves as left-leaners than right-leaners. Conservatives brandish these findings as proof that the media deck is stacked against them. Many journalists and Dems also acknowledge the existence of, if not an outright political bias, at least a broad cultural affinity between their members. But that doesn't assure Democrats an easier ride.
Now lets see what journalists think about whether they have a liberal tilt. (Keep in mind this is a poll of journalists trying to perform a self-analysis)
Pew: Five Times More Journalists Are
Liberal Than Conservative
Journalists at national media outlets are more liberal and less conservative than nine years ago, and while in 1995 they were upset that the media were too critical of President Clinton, they are now disturbed that the media are going too easy on President Bush, a just-released survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. Five times more national outlet journalists identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent. The poll also discovered that while the reporters, editors, producers and executives have a great deal of trouble naming a "liberal" news outlet, they had no problem seeing a "conservative" outlet, with an incredible 69 percent readily naming the Fox News Channel.
Pew compared this year's poll of 547 journalists around the nation, 247 of them at national-level outlets, to the results of a similar survey conducted by the group, then-known as the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, in 1995. This year they discovered 54% of national journalists described themselves as "moderates," down from 64 percent in 1995, as "the percentage identifying themselves as liberal has increased from 1995: 34% of national journalists describe themselves as liberals, compared with 22% nine years ago....More striking is the relatively small minority of journalists who think of themselves as politically conservative" at just 7 percent amongst national journalists, but that's a surge from an even more piddling 4 percent in 1995. "As the case a decade ago," Pew noted, "the journalists as a group are much less conservative than the general public (33% conservative)."
And those in the pipeline for national jobs are trending liberal too, with 23 percent of local journalists identifying themselves as liberal, "up from 14% in 1995," and only 12 percent calling themselves conservative.
Since those surveyed must realize how the left-wing tilt of their profession would be used by conservative media critics, it's a safe bet to assume that a significant number of actual liberals called themselves moderates.
A mere 8 percent of the national press believe the media are being "too critical" of President Bush, compared to nearly seven times as many, 55 percent, who think the media are "not critical enough." Back in 1995, as recounted in the MRC's June, 1995 edition of MediaWatch, Times Mirror determined that just two percent thought the press had given "too much" coverage to Clinton administration achievements, compared to 48 percent to saw "too little" on Clinton's achievements. The remaining 49 percent called coverage "about right."
Given the anti-Bush attitudes so many in the media, it's no surprise that "they express considerably less confidence in the political judgment of the American public than they did five years ago. Since 1999, the percentage saying they have a great deal of confidence in the public's election choices has fallen from 52% to 31% in the national sample of journalists."
The journalists did see ideology at one outlet: FNC. Pew explained: "The single news outlet that strikes most journalists as taking a particular ideological stance -- either liberal or conservative -- is Fox News Channel. Among national journalists, more than twice as many could identify a daily news organization that they think is 'especially conservative in its coverage' than one they believe is 'especially liberal' (82% vs. 38%). And Fox has by far the highest profile as a conservative news organization; it was cited unprompted by 69% of national journalists. The New York Times was most often mentioned as the national daily news organization that takes a decidedly liberal point of view, but only by 20% of the national sample."
The following is a portion of a summary of when former NYT reporter Jayson Blair (yes, the fabricator) went on the O'Reilly Factor. I don't trumpet Blair as the most trustworthy messenger on this issue, or anything else, but he's been in the NYT newsroom, and neither you nor I have:
BLAIR: Well, one of the problems -- and I don't necessarily agree with this notion -- was Howell's reign at the "Times" was he -- you know, I believe that "The New York Times" newsroom does have a social change agenda, and it's very liberal, it's certainly anti-conservative.
You could make the argument that it's a pro-liberal, anti-conservative social change agenda, and Howell didn't just push it, but he made it obvious. It's normally more subtle and more hidden and...
O'REILLY: OK. So they wanted...
BLAIR: ... masked and cloaked.
O'REILLY: So they wanted a new society, more secular society, more liberal society. Is that fair to say?
BLAIR: That is fair to say.
O'REILLY: And if you didn't buy into that, what would happen?
BLAIR: I can't think of anyone there who didn't buy into that.
O'REILLY: All of them -- all right. Let me give you...
BLAIR: People like John who were neo-conservatives...
O'REILLY: ... a real simple question.
BLAIR: All right. Go.
O'REILLY: If you walk into the newsroom and you said that "The O'Reilly Factor" is my favorite program, I love that O'Reilly guy...
BLAIR: Well, look at what...
O'REILLY: ... what would happen to you if you were a "New York Times" reporter?
BLAIR: I'd be laughed out of the newsroom. I mean, people would brand me as a neo-con, and, you know, they'd stop talking to me. They would...
BLAIR: It would hurt my stories. People would say that I -- you know, there are a handful of people who have conservative...
O'REILLY: That's right.
BLAIR: John Tierney.
O'REILLY: Yes, they've got a couple of token -- Safire and these guys.
BLAIR: Right. But they're outcasts.
Let me know if you need anything more.