Monday, April 23, 2012

Here's Something I'll Bet You Didn't Know About The New York Times

It's unbiased! I'll bet that this howler even has most of the Times' staff laughing.
With a tough presidential election on the horizon, media outlets relish the demand that the battle will bring for news and feature coverage.  In order to get those readers, though, the media outlets have to be perceived as reliable and trustworthy.  That brings us to a rather humorous column from the New York Times’ public editor — their version of an ombudsman — Arthur Brisbane, in which he addresses the disparity in scrutiny of Mitt Romney over the sitting President in recent Gray Lady coverage.  Brisbane criticized his paper four weeks ago for an over-the-top slam of an investment by the blind trust set up for Ann Romney, and apparently that’s part of his argument that the Times will provide fair coverage of the upcoming general election — despite the suck-up coverage given Barack Obama in his first term.
No … really:
According to a study by the media scholars Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Times’s coverage of the president’s first year in office was significantly more favorable than its first-year coverage of three predecessors who also brought a new party to power in the White House: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Writing for the periodical Politics & Policy, the authors were so struck by the findings that they wondered, “Did The Times, perhaps in response to the aggressive efforts by Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal to seize market share, decide to tilt more to the left than it had in the past?”

I strongly doubt that. Based on conversations with Times reporters and editors who cover the campaign and Washington, I think they see themselves as aggressive journalists who don’t play favorites. Still, a strong current of skepticism holds that the paper skews left. Unfortunately, this is exacerbated by collateral factors — for example, political views that creep into nonpolitical coverage.

To illustrate, Faye Farrington, a reader from Hollis, N.H., wrote me earlier this year in exasperation over a Sunday magazine article about “Downton Abbey,” the public television series, in which the writer slipped in a veiled complaint about Mitt Romney’s exploitation of the American tax code.

“The constant insertion of liberal politics into even the most politically irrelevant articles has already caused us to cancel our daily subscription,” Ms. Farrington wrote, “leaving only the Sunday delivery as I confess to an addiction to the Sunday crossword.”

The warm afterglow of Mr. Obama’s election, the collateral effects of liberal-minded feature writers — these can be overcome by hard-nosed, unbiased political reporting now.
Stop it — you’re killing me, Arthur!  Seriously, I can’t quite catch my breath from laughing out loud.  Brisbane gives us two of the most obvious cases of bias and says that this editorializing can be overcome by trusting the same people not to editorialize in news stories in the next six months.  One can imagine Lucy telling Charlie Brown much the same thing right before pulling the football away for the 50th year in a row.

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