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January 25, 2008

NYT Editor Bill Keller: We Will Not Note a Conflict of Interest Because Doing So Would Be To Admit a Conservative Critic Is Right

Read the whole thing.

The readers’ representative recounted discussing the matter with Times editor Bill Keller. Tellingly, Keller said he “does not want to single out Greenhouse … because it would appear to be a tacit rebuke in the face of a partisan assault.” And so, at last, we stumble into the truth. The Times is not a newspaper. It is a partisan, self-consciously engaged in partisan battle.

Objectively, there is nothing ideological about a conflict of interest. It is relationship-based, and you either have one or you don’t. For the Times, however, what matters is that an undeniable conflict was raised by a conservative. That makes it part of the permanent campaign, the Times’s ideological project. There can’t be any admissions because that would hurt the cause. For a partisan, the cause is bigger than any conflict.

Instapundit has written about "appearance of impropriety" conflicts of interest versus real, true conflicts of interest.

The thing is, Linda Greenhouse is an unabashed hyperliberal partisan. She has a true, bona fide, no kiddin' around conflict of interest on every case she reports. But of course the Times will not admit that, nor could they; if they did, they would have scarcely a reporter left on their staff.

Enter "appearance of impropriety" conflicts of interest. These, Instapundit has written persuasively, are largely hypertechnical conflicts lawyers and reporters dwell upon to the exclusion of real conflicts in order to pretend that by adhering to some objective rule about a triviality they're actually free of genuine conflicts of interests.

So does anyone really think that if Linda Greenhouse hadn't been married to a guy filing amicus briefs in support of terrorists her coverage of the case would have been any different? Of course not. She already was a biased partisan hack; she hardly needs her leftist lawyer husband to tell her the "right way" to write up a Supreme Court case.

Nevertheless, in exchange for us pretending not to notice Linda Greenhouse and other partisans' obvious political conflict of interest, the Times and other outfits have deceptively offered us in return a fidelity to appearance-of-impropriety conflicts, as when Linda Greenhouse effectively reviews her own husband's legal work. It's may be a dumb exchange, but that's what the MSM offers us.

But no longer. Caught red-handed not only employing a flagrant, and bitter, partisan in covering Supreme Court cases as a supposed neutral party, but caught further employing a reporter who's married to an effective party to a case she's covering, the Times now simply says it will no longer be following even the silly conflict-of-interest rules it has long played by in order to hide its true conflicts -- because doing so would be to credit a conservative's complaint as accurate and fair.

I suppose these are the final death-throws of the old pretense of objectivity. The Times is a purely partisan rag now, as it has long been, and will continue lying to claim neutrality and objectivity, but it is throwing off all the shackles it formerly operated by that at least provided some check on its ability to act as a partisan advocate.

Expect more of this: the major partisan hack papers will no longer even pretend to respond to politically-suspect criticism, no matter how plainly accurate.

Bill Keller is, perhaps laudably, just admitting what we've long asked him to admit: He's not in the news business. He's in the political advocacy business. And he will no more permit a conservative complaint to mar his political advocacy newsletter than the DNC will include Republican responses in its blast-faxes.

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posted by Ace at 06:06 PM

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