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July 25, 2004

NYT's Ombudsmen: I Work for a Liberal Rag

Daniel Okrent is generally useless to read, as he simply defends the Times' party line, down the line. True, he's at least polite and respectful about it, and he at least appears to be willing to give grievances an airing, but goshdarnit if he doesn't usually end up telling you the Times is fair and balanced.

So what an absolute shock it was for me to read this piece, in which the Times' "public editor" declares that on social questions, and most particularly on gay marriage, the NYT has been a cheerleading section for the left:

But it's one thing to make the paper's pages a congenial home for editorial polemicists, conceptual artists, the fashion-forward or other like-minded souls (European papers, aligned with specific political parties, have been doing it for centuries), and quite another to tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear. I don't think it's intentional when The Times does this. But negligence doesn't have to be intentional.

The gay marriage issue provides a perfect example. Set aside the editorial page, the columnists or the lengthy article in the magazine ("Toward a More Perfect Union," by David J. Garrow, May 9) that compared the lawyers who won the Massachusetts same-sex marriage lawsuit to Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King. That's all fine, especially for those of us who believe that homosexual couples should have precisely the same civil rights as heterosexuals.

But for those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it's disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading. So far this year, front-page headlines have told me that "For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy," (March 19, 2004); that the family of "Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home," (Jan. 12, 2004) is a new archetype; and that "Gay Couples Seek Unions in God's Eyes," (Jan. 30, 2004). I've learned where gay couples go to celebrate their marriages; I've met gay couples picking out bridal dresses; I've been introduced to couples who have been together for decades and have now sanctified their vows in Canada, couples who have successfully integrated the world of competitive ballroom dancing, couples whose lives are the platonic model of suburban stability.

Every one of these articles was perfectly legitimate. Cumulatively, though, they would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause. You wouldn't even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you'd have the makings of a life insurance commercial.

I'm actually interested in Andrew Sullivan's reaction. On one hand, Okrent takes on Sullivan's fourth biggest theme, NYT bias. But on the other hand, Sullivan's first three biggest themes are, in no particular order, gay marriage, gay marriage, and gay marriage, and here is Daniel Okrent saying that on this question, the NYT bias Sullivan likes to criticize just happens to be pushing his favorite issue.

Since this would be a tough issue to confront, I expect Sullivan to do what he usually does and completely ignore it.


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posted by Ace at 01:48 PM

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