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The Changing of the Canard
by Doug Schmitz
11 August 2003Newspaper

The New York Times' choice of Bill Keller for Executive Editor shows they learned nothing at all from the Jayson Blair debacle.


    [Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr.], showing that he has learned nothing from the Blair/Raines fiasco, has selected another unfair and unbalanced liberal to edit the paper.  Bill Keller -- author of such ‘objective’ statements as “Like the Communist Party circa Leonid Brezhnev, the Vatican exists first and foremost to preserve its own power” -- will get to select the stories on the front page.  Eric Alterman must not have been available.
    Since Sulzberger is determined to turn the Times into a daily Democratic Party press release, Keller should do just fine.  His contempt for conservatives and Catholics may even surpass Raines’s…Sulzberger’s next deception will be to tell his readers that Keller was the most evenhanded newsman he could find.
— George Neumayr, American Spectator, July 15, 2003


With the much-celebrated exit of former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines, you’d think the Times would have learned its lesson from the Jayson Blair debacle.  After all, replacing left-wing Raines with a fair and balanced editor would have provided the long-awaited change from the Times’ usual hardcore leftist format.

But with the hiring of former Times columnist Bill Keller, the Times ended up back at square one.  It traded one ultra-liberal editor for another, and set the newspaper on the very same left-wing path that ultimately derailed it – and continues to do so. 

Ultimately, swapping Raines with Keller is like the blind leading the blind in keeping with the newspaper’s partisan track record.  Eventually, it will fall again into the same old ditch of its not-so-hidden leftist ideology.  With all the problems that liberalism has created at the newspaper, the last thing the Times needed was another Mr. Magoo – blindly leading a predominantly liberal staff and driving it off yet another cliff.

Moreover, with all the remaining problems the Times still has with the likes of ultra-leftist writers Maureen Dowd, Nicholas Kristof, Paul Krugman, Chris Hedges and Adam Clymer, who are ardently anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-tax cuts, anti-capitalism, pro-abortion and pro-Communist, the ideological ambiance at the Times isn’t likely to change. 

The reason: Like CNN, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and NPR, to name a few, the Times still denies its liberalism – not only in its op-ed pieces, but also on its front pages.  Conservative Republicans are either rare as sources, or routinely maligned by Democrats – who make up the bulge of the Times’ favorable “news” coverage. 

Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com described the liberalism that still exists at the Times – and why Keller isn’t likely to stop it:

“I frankly doubt that Mr. Keller will succeed in restoring objectivity or balance to the Times newsroom,” Bartley said. “Former executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, actually a conservative, had a hard enough time. Then too, the current tone and culture are the work of publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., who remains in charge at the sufferance of his family.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell also observed the progressive nature of Keller’s left-wing agenda – which Keller is likely to reinforce at the Times:

Mr. Keller’s writings are indistinguishable from the hyperbolic liberalism coming from the most left-wing Democratic presidential candidates.  The essential question - can Keller erect an effective firewall between his personal liberalism and professional responsibilities? - has yet to be answered. But if he fails, the paper's credibility may worsen beyond repair.

In fact, Keller has so brazenly worn his political views on his sleeve through the pages of the Times in the past – and has aligned so identically with the Far Left – that his Aug. 10, 2002 column screamed, “We’ve got a [Bush] administration characterized by blind faith in crony capitalism, a drunken spendthrift’s version of supply-side economics, and a secretive, country-club executive style,” Keller inveighed. “The people-versus-the-powerful sloganeering was grating, but on the merits wasn’t Mr. Gore right?” 

Moreover, this past May, Keller’s apparent anti-Americanism led him to compare President Bush to Saddam Hussein: “In a different world, [Iraq] might be a case for the new International Criminal Court, but the United States does not recognize its authority,” Keller said. “(Neither does Iraq. In their scorn for international justice, Mr. Bush and Saddam Hussein were in full agreement.)”

Keller even revealed his disdain for conservatives in this Nov. 2, 2002 venomous opine: “Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma: Mr. Inhofe is a dimmer version of Jesse Helms -- an intolerant, xenophobic, might-makes-right ultrapatriot, but not as quick on his feet as Mr. Helms was in his prime,” Keller charged. “As a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, he has cover to utter bellicose nonsense.”

The main problem with Keller is that he is just as left-wing as his predecessor, Raines.  If Keller doesn’t stop allowing his and other reporters’ political invectives to invade the Times’ front pages, the newspaper will always remain out of touch with mainstream America – ultimately making the newspaper obsolete.  

But because the Times’ editorial management has obstinately refused to provide a fair and balanced view of not only the news, but of the world, it has become nothing more than an out-dated politicized rap sheet with a tired liberal agenda that simply doesn’t work anymore.  After all, Raines’ mindless coddling of Blair proved that.

This is also the reason the liberal media cannot begin to understand or appreciate the success of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the Drudge Report, Fox News, WorldNetDaily.com, Newsmax.com, the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, American Spectator, Human Events and Townhall.com.
 
The reason these alternative news venues are so successful is because they have provided the antidote to the ultra-leftist propaganda that still gets pumped daily from the airwaves and newsprint inkwells of these leftist media sources.  With the Times, like all the rest, you only hear what liberals want you to hear.
Much like CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and NPR, the Times has primarily relied on fellow Democrats as its main sources for its stories, as well as on their own op-ed writers to spew out their left-wing drivel in borderline treasonous fashion.

Unequivocally, the Times has gone so obdurately Far Left, it excludes all other sides.  In fact, the major reason Fox News continues to beat out CNN in the cable news ratings is because of its fair and balanced approach to news coverage – which is something leftist media lapdogs like CNN have never attempted to do before.

Most interestingly, according to a recent report on newsroom practices – especially as it now pertains to the Jayson Blair scandal, the Times editorial management “failed to communicate with each other and balked at firing bad reporters, but they did know how to speak rudely to staff,” Reuters reported on July 30.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs, conducting a study called, “Government: In and Out of the News,” said it found partisan bias at the Times – especially when there were signs of the Times heavily favoring former president Bill Clinton in its political coverage: “The New York Times displayed a tilt toward the Democrats,” the 170-page report said. “The Times gave more favorable (though still mainly negative) press to the Clinton administration (33 positive evaluations) than to the Reagan and Bush administrations, which received only 25 and 30 percent positive comments respectively. Bill Clinton also bested his rivals in his personal coverage, with 38 percent positive press vs. 32 percent positive for both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush.”

In order to stem the tide of fraudulent reporting, the Times announced plans last week to appoint “a readers’ ombudsman to maintain high standards of fairness and accuracy on the paper as part of its drive to bury the remains the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal,” The Guardian reported.

“Appointing a “public editor” is just one of the measures recommended in a wide-ranging report into how the newspaper operates, commissioned after it was revealed that Blair had plagiarized and fabricated dozens of stories,” The Guardian said.

In fact, according to The Guardian, Keller admitted to the “litany of missed communications and lapses of oversight that allowed Blair’s malpractices to go unchecked for so long. 

As a result, the ombudsman would review reader complaints and a standards editor would be responsible for setting ground rules.  In addition, the Times is set to appoint another editor, charged with recruitment, training and development.
In the past, Keller admitted, the Times had resisted hiring such watchdogs for fear of public scrutiny – the one thing it desperately needed.

“We worried it would foster nit-picking and navel-gazing, that it might undermine staff morale and, worst of all, that it would absolve other editors of their responsibility to represent the interests of readers,” Keller said. 

The Guardian added that Keller agreed with the recommendation that the paper would now “profit from the scrutiny of an independent reader representative.”
The other Times – the Los Angeles Times – is at least making an effort at fairness and balance.  Editor John Carroll admitted in May to his newspaper’s liberal bias.  In fact, Carroll issued a memo to his staff, warning reporters “to keep their liberal politics out of the news pages.”

“I’m concerned about the perception – and the occasional reality – that the Times is a liberal, “politically correct” newspaper,” the memo started. “Generally speaking, this is an inaccurate view, but occasionally we prove our critics right.  We did so today [May 22] with the front-page story on the bill in Texas that would require abortion doctors to counsel patients that they may be risking breast cancer.

OpinionJournal.com reported that Carroll criticized reporter Scott Gold for slanting his report the following ways:

1.    Editorializing by referring to “so-called counseling,” a phrase, in Carroll’s words, “that is loaded with derision.”
2.    Failing to quote scientists who think there is a link between abortion and breast cancer (a minority view, to be sure), except for one, quoted late in the story only for “his political views.”
3.    Referring to one of the sponsors of the bill as having “a professional background in property management,” while making no reference to the lack of scientific credentials of the bill’s opponents.

The New York Times needs to take the Los Angeles Times’ lead – literally – and start insisting that its reporters keep their leftist political views out of the news pages.

If the New York Times ever hopes to be an actual “newspaper of record,” it needs to look very carefully at its remaining reporters as well, such as Dowd, Kristof, Krugman, Hedges and Clymer.  These very talented – yet leftist ideology-driven – writers will continue to drag down the Times if they don’t check their left-wing views at the door.

Let’s hope the Times takes this to heart.  Because if they don’t, the Old Gray Lady will remain a tramp and readers will continue to turn to more reputable sources for their news diet.

Doug Schmitz is a free-lance journalist who regularly contributes to AmericanDaily.com, Etherzone.com, and BushCountry.org.

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