Bias Acknowledged

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Posted on : 9/02/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The ombudsman for the NYTimes recently penned a column about what he has discovered over his two years in that position.  The whole column is worth a read.  However, he makes a couple of points that support the larger contention about the perspective of the NYTimes.

The first is that the Times....their occasionally valiant ombudsman aside...rarely sees where they may have erred in their reporting.

The Times is hardly transparent. A reader still has to work very hard to find any Times policies online (though some are tucked away there), and there is still no place where Times editors speak on the issues. As for humility, well, The Times is Lake Wobegon on steroids (everybody’s way above average). I don’t remember many autopsies in which, as we assembled over the body, anyone conceded that maybe this could have been done differently.
Emphasis in the original.

The second of Mr. Wilson's more interesting observations relates to (gasp) bias.

I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within. 

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times. 

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
This isn't exactly earth shattering news to those of us that don't work for or uncritically believe everything in the New York Times.

The story also notes the credibility of the times among Republicans has dropped relative to Fox News.  It is also noted that the credibility of Fox News among Democrats relative to the NYTimes is almost precisely inverse of that measured among Republicans.

This isn't progress.

Part of being able to have a common debate of the issues is being able to have a common basis for that debate.  When the media effectively chooses sides in their news reporting, they undermine our ability to conduct a civil discourse on current events.

An examples would be claiming that the "science is settled" with respect to global warming.  Ummm...it ain't.

Another example might be consistently reporting about potential effects of raising taxes on the budget deficit without concomitantly reporting about potential effects of cutting spending.  Or at least discussing those cuts in a manner that doesn't suggest that proponents of cuts are some sort of ghoul looking to feast on the dead.

I have maintained for many years that the rise of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News was the direct result of the media failing to publish "all the news that's fit to print".  Perhaps the Times will discover this before they turn into the next Village Voice.

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