October 12, 2004


Bias Blinders: Of course the Times plays favorites, Dan. (Donald Luskin, 10/12/04, National Review)

Three months ago New York Times “public editor” Dan Okrent addressed the question, “Is The Times a liberal newspaper?” His answer: “Of course it is.” Remarkably, on Sunday he took on the question, “Is The Times systematically biased toward either candidate?” His answer: “No.”

This answer begs one more question: “Has the Times’s ‘public editor’ lost his mind?”

Do I even need to bother to cite examples of favorably slanted stories about John Kerry and the relentless undermining of George W. Bush in the pages of the Times? There are hundreds of examples. I’m sure every reader has his own favorite — some especially egregious story that sticks in his craw. But Okrent has an answer for that: It’s you who have lost your mind. The Times isn’t biased: You are. [...]

For example, when the Sunday Times Magazine covers healthcare, it does so with an article by Hillary Clinton. When it covers the phenomenon of political blogging, all the featured bloggers are liberals, and most of them Bush-loathers. Sunday’s style section even did a “What I’m Wearing Now” feature on John Edwards’s daughter (seemingly without irony, she is pictured wearing flip-flops). On this, Okrent cannot escape what he said three months ago: The Times is a liberal newspaper.

Isn't it a logical outgrowth of partisanship that you don't even recognize all your biases? There's no reason the Times shouldn't work to elect John Kerry, they should just be capable of admitting that's what they're doing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2004 5:12 PM

Given the Founders' reverence for freedom of the press, one would think they'd be might PO'd at the pathetic misuse that freedom has engendered.

OTOH, some of the noxious fumes given off by the press back at the time the Constitution was being hammered out could have stripped the paint off a battleship.

I miss seeing politicians referred to as poltroons and blacklegs...

Posted by: M. Murcek at October 12, 2004 5:19 PM

I don't think there's any avoiding the press shedding the pitiful semblance of "objectivity" that they still feebly cling to, given the recent actions by CBS and ABC, and the popularity of Fox.

Who cares if the press is "fair"? All that matters is that it's free.

Posted by: brian at October 12, 2004 5:32 PM

The heart of modern journalism and the basis of its claim to special status is the belief that it occupies a unique role in public life. The role is defined as guarding and shaping the civic discourse based on disinterest from the issues at hand combined with defining the scope of discussion. This role does not admit the systemic possibility of "bias." Raising the charge of bias only activates the guardian instinct which rules the question out of bounds.

Posted by: luciferous at October 12, 2004 5:32 PM

Maybe it's our fault since we love to hate the NYT so much?

How often has this blog referenced a bland middle-of-the-road publication like "U.S. News & World Report"?

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 12, 2004 5:44 PM

Quite, simply, the NYT may strive for objectivity, but the (new?) journalism is a social force that fights for Good.

Since Bush is, by definition, evil (and/or bad, misguided, incompetent, inarticulate, religious, foolish, criminal, a nincompoop, not even really the president, etc.), then the NYT can strive for objectivity, yea even achieve it, while doing its best to promote the anti-Bush.

It's just a matter of defining one's terms. It's really very simple.

(Never mind that the NYT is utterly divorced from reality; there are enough fellow travelers to go around---strength in numbers (if not quite enough)---though I do wonder whether to what extent, if any, its advertising revenue has been affected.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 12, 2004 5:52 PM

I have always wondered why FOX does not have a nightly newscast like the big 3. They are a network with close to the big 3's reach. I think they would clean house.

Posted by: BJW at October 12, 2004 6:31 PM

...and the article on Theresa today in the Food section.

Posted by: at October 12, 2004 7:00 PM

Daniel Okrent could not admit otherwise - to say that the Times is liberal AND biased would mean that he, as the PUBLIC EDITOR, would have to do something to change it. Which he is clearly not prepared to do. Nor would he be employed for long if he tried.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 12, 2004 8:56 PM

Well Norman Mailer and his buddies started The Village Voice in the 1950s because they thought that papers like the Times and the (then-liberal) New York Post weren't far enough to the left to suit their tastes. And their paper practiced advocacy journalism, but there was never any question about which side of the political spectrum they were coming from.

The Times back then was still reliably liberal, both on the editorial page and in the mindset it took on the stories covered, but while it may have been ga-ga for John F. Kennedy, it didn't go off the deep end trying to pin bogus charges on Richard Nixon. Today's Times sees nothing wrong with outright advocacy journalism in its regular news stories, but will never admit that's what it is, which is getting harder and harder to do the easier and easier it becomes to fact check those stories' claims.

Posted by: John at October 12, 2004 9:44 PM

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a newspaper being biased, so long as they are honest about the fact that they are.

Posted by: Bart at October 12, 2004 10:16 PM

This is from Tom Sowell's latest column:

"A joke has President Bush and the Pope sailing down the Potomac on the Presidential yacht. The wind blows the Pontiff's cap off and it falls into the water. President Bush orders the yacht stopped, gets off and walks across the water to retrieve the Pope's cap.

The next day's headline in the New York Times reads: BUSH CAN'T SWIM."


Posted by: Jeff at October 12, 2004 10:25 PM


That's really something that Mailer thought the New York Post wasn't liberal enough. William F. Buckley's recent book of speeches contains an attack he made on the Post's James Wechsler, who had written that communism really wasn't that bad and it was silly to risk the world's existence over a place like Berlin.

Buckley said a cherished hobby of his was to peruse the Post and calculate just how much freedom he would lose if that publication's recommendations were written into law. He also said he was sure that Wechsler would have opposed slavery back in the days of Lincoln, but that unfortunately he had never said anything in the present day which would give comfort to millions of slaves behind the Iron Curtain -- whose future as slaves would remain as certain in an America run by Wechsler as the future of slaves in an America run by Jefferson Davis.

David Brooks said he suspected Buckley and Wechsler may not have shaken hands after that debate.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 12, 2004 11:38 PM


Sigh...once again, I've screwed up a link. Please go here if interested.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 12, 2004 11:40 PM

I was read in the comics this moring and I saw Dan Okrent jumping over Sherman.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 13, 2004 12:05 AM

Matt --

Those who founded the Voice were lamenting the loss of the far-left New York City newspaper, PM, which was published from 1940 to 1948. To people like that, the Post was too mainstram liberal for their tastes (sort of the way the far left today derides the New York Times for its conservative leanings while everyone else listens to those rants, shake their heads and wonder,"What you talkin' about, Willis?").

If you read Roger Starr's sympathetic recounting of its history you'll note that the ideological basis for the paper's writing style sounds a lot like both the Voice as it was created in the 1950s, and the Times as it has evolved under Pinch Sulzberger's leadership.

Posted by: John at October 13, 2004 1:21 AM

>Isn't it a logical outgrowth of partisanship
>that you don't even recognize all your biases?

Remember, "bias" is always what the OTHER guy believes/says/does.

Kind of like "paganism" is always the OTHER guy's religion.

Posted by: Ken at October 13, 2004 7:49 PM


Are you implying that "bias" is a pure construction which exists only in the mind of the observer?
When someone insists on their own objectivity as in the case of the NYT it is, on its face, a simple case of bias. They are definitively 'liberal" and the charade is harmful to their credibility as well as to their shareholders. They are becoming, like CBS, a joke.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at October 15, 2004 3:19 PM