The New York Times failed (spectacularly) to bring down the
candidacy of John McCain, but succeeded in bringing together
normally opposing voices in ways Barack Obama can only hope to.
Somebody has to voice the outrage it caused.
Wednesday night to Monday morning is just a lost weekend
to a drunk. To Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times,
it was something more: Enough time to stain further the paper’s already
tarnished reputation — and more than enough time to realize that no
reasonable explanation could be produced that would explain away the
paper’s decision to run its front-page, 3,000-word hit on John McCain.
For four days, everybody (not just the Media Research Center, we’re
talking the Los Angeles Times and Slate, too) has pummeled Keller and
his reporters. By now, it’s clear that it was a story that, according
to the Washington Post’s media watcher, Howard Kurtz, is seen by a “rough consensus” of journalists as “fatally flawed.” (National Review Online’s editorial is here; Jonah Goldberg’s column on the mess is here.)
All the links are there. Including the one to the paper’s attempt (by its public editor) to save face, which didn’t work.
Here’s what the paper’s public editor didn’t say, but
should have: “Get a grip! The function of the Times is not to print
‘news.’ It’s to provide like-minded readers with a comforting view of
And that is true. Here’s what else the Times editor didn’t say:
“Obviously, we’d never have printed this story if it had been about any leading Democrat.”
No denying that’s true, no matter what your party affiliation.
As Kurtz points out, “When Gennifer Flowers held a news
conference in 1992 to announce that she had carried on an affair with
Bill Clinton, the New York Times devoted one paragraph of a news story
to her charges.”…The Clinton years, with its huge inventory of
underreported misadventures, left the Times hopelessly discredited —
not so much by what they printed, but by what they didn’t print.
Another admission not made:
“News is now a series of narratives — stories with good
guys and bad guys. The purpose of our piece wasn’t to report ‘facts.’
It was to take a guy that we had proclaimed ‘good’ and make him ‘bad.’”
Which refers to the endorsement the Times made of John McCain, which was in fact setting him up to take him down.
What else didn’t the public editor say?
“Even if we didn’t have any substantiation for our claims, it’s in our interest to assume they’re true anyway.”
Why? Because they’re the Times. And they can.
The problem at the Times isn’t bias, which is always
acceptable. It’s hypocrisy. The Times claims to represent a set of
journalistic ideals. But their daily practices show a blatant, if
situational disregard for the standards of their profession — standards
which certainly would have forbidden the appearance of the McCain story
in the first place.
But then, for the Times this is standard.