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May 09, 2005

The New York Times' "Credibility Group:" Bloggers Are Right, We're Liberal Shills

The Gray Lady Blinks; Who's Next?

Young Media has taken out some juicy Old Media targets. Rather. Jordan. Raines. (And, of course, the left-leaning Young Media nailed an even bigger target: Gannon.)

But the juiciest target of all -- the biggest establishment liberal institution in America (with the possible exception of the entire state of Massachusetts) -- just said "I give."

I only skimmed the Times article about the findings of its own internal review on building credibility. Quite frankly, the article seemed boring and technical.

That was deliberate, I think. The writer was determined to break as little news about the Times' "Credibility Group's" findings as possible.

And the dependable Kathlene Q. Seelye did that job superbly. Here's how she opens her snoozer:

In order to build readers' confidence, an internal committee at The New York Times has recommended taking a variety of steps, including having senior editors write more regularly about the workings of the paper, tracking errors in a systematic way and responding more assertively to the paper's critics.

The committee also recommended that the paper "increase our coverage of religion in America" and "cover the country in a fuller way," with more reporting from rural areas and of a broader array of cultural and lifestyle issues.

Pretty much the print equivalent of a very bored looking cop waving "Move on, move on, nothing to see here."

And then she breaks out the high-power animal tranquilizers:

As examples, the report cited limiting anonymous sources, reducing factual errors and making a clearer distinction between news and opinion. It also said The Times should make the paper's operations and decisions more transparent to readers through methods like making transcripts of interviews available on its Web site.

The report also said The Times should make it easier for readers to send e-mail to reporters and editors. "The Times makes it harder than any other major American newspaper for readers to reach a responsible human being," the report said.

About as compelling as reading stereo instructions badly translated from the original Mongolian.

But the actual report that article purports to fairly digest is a hell of a lot more interesting -- and more damning of past Times' practices -- than Ms. Seelye would have the casual reader believe.

Sample quotes (emphases added in all):

Though we have our lapses, individual news stories on emotional topics like abortion, gun control, the death penalty and gay marriage are reported and edited with great care, to avoid any impression of bias. Nonetheless, when numerous articles use the same assumption as a point of departure, that monotone can leave the false impression that the paper has chosen sides.

This is especially so when we add in our feature sections, whose mission it is to write about novelty in life. As a result, despite the strict divide between editorial pages and news pages, The Times can come across as an advocate. The public editor found that the overall tone of our coverage of gay marriage, as one example, “approaches cheerleading.” By consistently framing the issue as a civil rights matter -- gays fighting for the right to be treated like everyone else -- we failed to convey how disturbing the issue is in many corners of American social, cultural and religious life.

I should note that this admission of the Times' advocacy on the issue is itself nevertheless written from the viewpoint of bias. Notice how those who oppose gay marriage are not granted any sort of intellectual or philosophical objection to the practice -- no, "The Credibility Group" can only allow that we are overcome by emotionalism, that the paper has failed to recognize "how disturbing" the issue is to us.

Nevertheless, the admission that the paper has been a "cheerleader" for gay marriage, has covered it one-sidedly, and has all but ignored even the "disturbed" opponents of gay marriage is a step in the right direction.

Too often we label whole groups from a perspective that uncritically accepts a stereotype or unfairly marginalizes them. As one reporter put it, words like moderate or centrist “inevitably incorporate a judgment about which views are sensible and which are extreme.”

We often apply “religious fundamentalists,” another loaded term, to political activists who would describe themselves as Christian conservatives. We particularly slip into these traps in feature stories when reporters and editors think they are merely presenting an interesting slice of life, with little awareness of the power of labels. We need to be more vigilant about the choice of language not only in the text but also in headlines, captions and display type.

Haven't bloggers and conservative media critics generally been making just this point for the past 15 years? If not longer?

And how about this?:

In part because the Times’s editorial page is clearly liberal, the news pages do need to make more effort not to seem monolithic. Both inside and outside the paper, some people feel that we are missing stories because our staff lacks diversity in viewpoints, intellectual grounding and individual backgrounds. We should look for all manner of diversity. We should seek talented journalists who happen to have military experience, who know rural America first hand, who are at home in different faiths.

Sounds like ideas that have been suggested in the blogosphere -- and elsewhere before Al Gore invented the Internet, of course -- many times before.

So: We were right after all.

I guess that's why the Times felt compelled to run an screed inveighing against the loose ethics of bloggers. When you're admitting this much of the bloggers' case against the MSM, sheer ego requires you to try to take a bite out of your harassers.

Pimping My Streaming-Audio Ride: Karol and I will be talking about this at the top of our new show, Hoist the Black Flag, debuting today at 4 PM Eastern Time on Rightalk radio, and repeated every hour on the hour thereafter.

God willing.

PS, we've got Michelle Malkin and James Taranto.

I don't want to say too much about the dirt I've dug up on Michelle, but just to tease it, let's say that it has something to do with a guy whose name rhymes with "Barry Bybax."


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posted by Ace at 11:29 PM

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