July 25, 2004

Liberal Fishwrap?

In his article Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper? New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent's confession -- albeit grudging -- that the Times is a "liberal newspaper" confirms what we right-wing nudnicks have been saying forever. Okrent, referring to "social issues" says that "if you think the Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed."

An example dear to my heart was the news that Sandy Berger was smuggling his notes and secret documents out of the National Archive in his socks, a story the Times saw fit to put below the fold on Page A16, while leaving a story about the new fashion among the glitterati of men wearing their shirts outside their pants on page A1. This was Clinton's National security Adviser, not a Fawn Hall or an Aldrich Ames. Not only Clinton's National Security Adviser, but one of John Kerry's key foreign policy advisers.

Okrent's case in point for his confession is the gay marriage debate, where the Times neglects even public testimony from the anti-gay-marriage side while publishing puff-pieces on the homosexualist side of the issue.

Publisher Sulzberger's cop-out is that the Times is an "urban" newspaper, not a liberal one. More precisely, it's the newspaper of Manhattan singles and upscale suburbanites -- Soho and Great Neck -- especially if they're of Jewish origin and not religious. It's not the newspaper of West Indian shopkeepers or Irish Catholic policemen.

The Times historically claimed to be the "newspaper of record" and has gone national. Even as its journalistic reputation has declined and its circulation has become national, its politics and its journalistic choices have become more and more parochial.

Our local paper here, the Orange County Register, is an interesting contrast. The Register's editorial pages make it the Pravda of libertarianism, utterly dogmatic and utterly predictable, although refereshing because it's such a voice in the wilderness. The Register's coverage, however, reflects no libertarian bias, perhaps because its staff, like most American journalists, is mostly liberal or further left.

The Times's pretense of objectivity and authoritativeness, however, is belied by its bias. And like most forms of hypocrisy, it's annoying. If it weren't for the crosswords and double-crostics, I'd probably go elsewhere for my fishwrap.

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