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September 26, 2004

An Open Letter to the New York Times

TO: Bill Kehler, Managing Editor
Daniel Okrent, "Public Editor"
Martin Klam, writer

In an article published September 26, 2004 in the New York Times Magazine, writer Martin Klam interviews several left-wing bloggers and names several more. He only mentions in passing the right-leaning blogger king Instapundit, and gives only a brief mention to the non-blog forum FreeRepublic. Mickey Kaus, a centrist Democrat, rates only a paragraph.

Mr. Klam wrote his article during the Republican National Convention, and apparently chose only to speak with the left-wing bloggers blogging from a location nearby to Madison Square Garden. There were, of course, right-leaning bloggers at the convention itself, and thousands more blogging from their homes or offices. Mr. Klam, and the editor of the piece, chose not publish an interview with or profile of a single right-leaning blogger, despite such bloggers' wide publicity, ready availability, and eagerness to talk to the press. (Signatures of right-leaning bloggers attending the convention will follow, attesting to this fact.)

Mr. Klam cannot claim that a mere lack of press credentials to enter MSG kept him from interviewing any but left-wing bloggers. All Republican-leaning bloggers at the convention would have been available at practically any time during the day or night.

It is breathtaking enough that the New York Times -- a paper which still maintains, albeit half-heartedly and increasingly ridiculously, to be non-partisan and objective -- would chose to ignore half of the entire blogosphere in an article purporting to report on the blogosphere. Indeed, "half" rather understates the case; most of the biggest bloggers lean to the right.

But it is all the more baffling that such an article would do so now, given the fact -- incovenient for Mr. Klam and your editors, I'm sure -- that it is the right-leaning blogosphere which has actually scooped the entirety of the mainstream media in reporting and then proving that the documents presented to CBSNews and USAToday were forgeries, and indeed rather transparent ones at that.

There can be no question that the reason the blogosphere is even worth discussing now is that the right-leaning blogosphere, and the right-leaning blogosphere alone, actually did the media's job of fact-checking, consulting experts, gathering evidence, and disseminating that evidence widely to the public.

And not due to, say, Wonkette's estimation of John Kerry's penis size.

Two of the left-wing bloggers Mr. Klam is most fascinated by were, to varying degrees, defenders of the authenticity of Dan Rather's documents; certainly neither had any hand at all in uncovering the truth.

When all the world is talking about the Rathergate debacle, the New York Times choses to highlight its fellow dupes in this scandal rather that those who actually presented the truth to the world.

It would be rather unremarkable that the New York Times would, once again, give prominent coverage of liberal voices while suppressing the voices of conservatives. That is so routine as to hardly be worth remarking upon at this point.

But to entirely ignore right-wing bloggers at the very moment when right-wing bloggers scoop, beat, and downright embarass the mainstream media -- including of course the New York Times itself -- is something else entirely.

This cannot be passed off as some mere oversight; this was a blatant and deliberate suppression of the actual newsmakers of the moment, in favor of those who aren't making any news but who are reliably parroting the liberal party line.

When Rathergate has been the major media story for the past three weeks, only deliberate intent can explain an article so studiously avoiding the topic at all. One would think that Mr. Klam would mention it more than once, if only by accident.

Can you rebut this? Can you offer any scoops recently provided by the Daily Kos, Josh Marshall, or Wonkette? Have all of their postings of the past three years combined come close to equalling the enormous tumult in the mainstream press caused entirely by the right-wing bloggers Mr. Klam so studiously ignores?

By what criterion did you, and Mr. Klam, decide to feature only left-wing bloggers while ignoring their right-wing counterparts? As far as actual media impact, any such comparison would be laughable. In terms of traffic, Instapundit garner much more traffic than Wonkette and Josh Marshall; Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs gets more traffic than either as well. Mr. Klam has apparently heard of Little Green Footballs, and even interviewed him for 43 minutes; strangely enough, not even a passing reference to Mr. Johnson, or his role in providing the smoking-gun proof of the discredited documents' fraudulency, is made in the entire piece.

One would imagine Mr. Klam could have lost one Wonkette quote about raw tuna appetizers to make the required room to mention that Little Green Footballs had almost singlehandly debunked a major political fraud (and embarassed the entire legacy media while he was at it).

While attempting to cover-up its negligence in passing off obvious hoaxes as "unimpeachable" evidence of court-martialable offenses committed by our President, Dan Rather chose to not feature the words of any of his actual critics. He did not quote them or give them time to make their case; he deliberately omitted any mention of the strongest evidence against the documents' veracity in order to mislead his audience into believing he was responding to criticisms actually made.

It seems now that the New York Times is engaged in a similar game. Having been embarassed and humiliated by unpaid amateurs you consider your intellectual, professional, and moral inferiors, you choose to simply expunge us from the record, and by doing so avoid any mention that you were beaten -- badly -- by the pajama-wearing wannabes for whom you have such contempt.

Journalism has never been a science, but it has usually been understood to be informed by a scientific spirit. And the most important part of the scientific spirit is that critics will be given a full and fair hearing, if only to then be rebutted vigourously. Instead, the New York Times has chosen the far simpler method of defeating an opponent's critique-- ignoring it and hoping that it doesn't get wide dissemination.

It is curious indeed for an organization ostensibly committed to reporting the news to actively and deliberately avoid any mention of actual newsmakers, lest those newsmakers' revelations prove too embarassing, and their critiques too difficult to rebut.

Journalistic enterprises have not traditionally suppressed any mention of their critics from the record. Political advocacy groups of course do this by routine; a political advocacy group will report only what it believes helpful to its position while intentionally omitting any mention of strong arguments against its position.

It seems that CBS News, and now the New York Times, have chosen to cease being journalistic enterprises and become all-but-admitted political advocacy groups. That is your choice, but you have no right to continue misrepresenting yourself as a news organization.


Ace of Spades

Correction: As noted below, a coordiated assault by internet partisan political operatives has underhandedly exposed an error I made in this letter originally. It seems Josh Marshall says (says) that his big story was the Niger uranium story, not the Barnes/documents story. I have deleted the reference to that in the letter.

Furthermore, I have deleted the word "vigorous" in modifying Marshall's early defense of the forgeries as authentic. Kos defended them vigorously; Marshall merely defended them.

I was not presented with the defnititive proof of error that I usually require when dealing with internet partisans, but I've decided to be charitable in this case and relax that standard. For once.

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posted by Ace at 03:26 AM

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