Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 28, 2009

TAKING THE WRONG MARCHING ORDERS (AGAIN).... A week ago, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander questioned whether enough attention is being paid to what conservative activists, Fox News, and right-wing talk radio consider important. He lamented the fact that his paper, while offering extensive coverage of important current events, neglected to invest energy into ACORN and Van Jones.

Yesterday, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt followed suit, expressing regret for the paper's coverage of -- you guessed it -- ACORN and Van Jones.

Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."

In the larger context, the NYT's hereafter monitoring of "opinion media" seems to be focused on the right. Indeed, the stated goal is to take more of an interest in the "issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio," not Daily Kos and Air America.

What's more, the paper's interest is apparently expanding. Jamison Foser noted, "A few years ago, the New York Times created a conservative beat -- a reporter assigned full-time to reporting on the conservative movement (the paper didn't bother assigning anyone to cover the progressive movement.) Now, in response to right-wing whining, they're assigning an editor to brief them regularly on Glenn Beck's latest ravings. I'm sure that will make for some excellent journalism."

Josh Marshall also raised a good point about the larger context: "You may have seen that there's a new meme afoot in the news world which has it that the mainstream media either ignores or is insufficiently 'in touch' with the right wing noise machine of Fox, Drudge, Glenn Beck, etc. What's notable however is that the idea seems to be emanating from the folks at Politico whose founders' theory of the media is that its narratives are largely defined by Matt Drudge and who used Drudge as the key vector to build their national audience. I'm not sure how these two facts compute."

They don't.

Two other points to consider here. First, part of responsible journalism is separating fact from fiction, identifying which stories have genuine value, and which don't. Allowing Fox News and talk radio to become assignment editors for major, legitimate news organizations is backwards -- the vast majority of the time they're pursuing obvious nonsense.

Remember the politicized car dealership story? How about the "muzzled" EPA economist? Or the not-so-scandalous DHS report about potentially violent extremists? Or the outrage that President Obama encouraged children to do well in school? Or the unhinged apoplexy about birth certificates and death panels? Right-wing activists always have something to throw a fit over; that doesn't make it news and it certainly doesn't make it true. I'd like to think the boys who cried wolf would get less attention, not more.

Second, the NYT can assign an entire floor to do nothing but monitor what Limbaugh and Beck find important, and it won't stop conservatives from complaining about the Times. Foser reminds us, "These efforts to bend over backwards to appease the Right -- people who will never be appeased -- no matter how ridiculous their complaints, in which newspapers like the Times fret over the suspicion of bias regardless of the merits of the complaint, are exactly how the paper ends up handing a presidential election to George W. Bush -- and then handing him his Iraq war on a platter."

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

Oh, how I pray the NYT spends more time shining daylight on the delusional drivel Fox broadcasts all day.

Posted by: mars on September 28, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

i think we see here exactly how the times has gone wrong: i intend to fire off a comment to clark hoyt today, and then to cancel my subscription to the sunday ny times and change my home page (currently the ny times).

i sincerely hope that pinch sulzberger goes broke.

Posted by: howard on September 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Part of the mountain of reasons why anyone who uses the term "liberal media" is a total, absolute, complete moron.

Seriously. "Liberal media" says "I'm an idiot" more clearly than does the phrase "I'm an idiot".

Posted by: DH Walker on September 28, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

It's shortsighted of the Fourth Estate but not at all surprising: in this age of corporate-owned media where Big Business is their god and making money is their reason for existence, you are not going to have a functional Fourth Estate, especially since our nation doesn't force accuracy.

And you repeat lies, the bigger the better, often enough, and they will take root. See Goebbels, Joseph.

Posted by: zhak on September 28, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Washington Post missed the whole WMD thing as I recall. Did they start monitoring Liberal blogs as a result?

Posted by: coral on September 28, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

If I cared about Rupert Murdoch's entertainment enpire and the stories they make up, I would read the Post and watch Fox News.

Once upon a time, the networks made sure they covered every national front page story of the NY Times and WaPo. Now, those two papers are wondering if they should be Drudge Shills.

Posted by: freelunch on September 28, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, and just look at the below 'story line' created by multimillionaire 'journalists' yesterday on the Chris Matthews "show". This was found on Crooks and Liars.

*********************************************

So Tweety, all worked up about next year's mid-term elections, asks his panelon this week's "Chris Matthews Show" how many House seats will the Dems lose in the upcoming election and quotes some of Charlie Cook's predictions.

He blames high unemployment and healthcare reform for impending losses, and then notes how many seats Reagan lost and how many Clinton lost. What it's going to be like "after next November when the Democrats have to pay the piper for high unemployment, for questions - in fact, anger that you've all expressed in the last section about the healthcare bill and all those kinds of problems?"

TIME editor Richard Stengel praises Rahm Emanuel, saying how brilliant it was that Rahm put Democratic conservatives in conservative districts. (Buttering up the chief of staff for access, Richard?)

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker says House Democrats are concerned because they "walked the plank for Nancy Pelosi on cap-and-trade and now they've got to go with health care, the people are raising Cain about it at home, and so they're in a terrible bind and yes, they want to be team players so I think you're going to see a lot of fallout come this term."

Matthews says any House Democrat who puts their "yea" on health care reform "has got to be thinking 'I'm a target'".

CNBC's Trish Regan says that's because health care reform is an unpopular program (well, Trish, I'm guessing it is among your constituency, but there's a lot more of us than there are of them) and claims that voters are "more worried about spending and the deficit" and says there's a feeling their politicians are not doing what they want.

She says President Obama needs to make this health care program more popular, and Matthews agrees.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the Wall Street beat reporter for the New York Times, says "People are voting with their wallets next time. That's what this is. This is all about 'am I richer, am I poorer' and you know, everybody remembers how rich they were - ah, I don't know how rich they were, but only a year or two ago and unless Obama can get Democrats and get us back to that place next summer, I think it's going to be a tough road."

Matthews says, So the Republicans are promising to get it back for you?

Sorkin: Absolutely.

Then Parker add this final dollop of smug Villager "wisdom."

"There was never a constituency for health care. Let's remember that. When you have eighty five percent of Americans who are pretty satisfied with their policies, their insurance coverage and their health care, where was this constituency that we have to overhaul the system? It never was there."

Whoa, Nellie! Are you kidding me? Hey Kath, did you happen to notice that health care was the main issue in last year's election? Have you been reading all those health-care sob stories on the front page of your own paper? Can't wait until your ass-kissing paper closes and you're out on the street, hustling freelance work to cover your bills. Imagine, life where you can't afford a pedicure!

Matthews agrees. "Right. And I see trouble for the Democrats."

I'm going to make a different prediction. If the Democrats pass healthcare reform with a real public option, Democratic popularity will grow and we'll do well in the next election, with minimal losses.
Tags: Chris Matthews Show

Posted by: stormskies on September 28, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, and just look at the below 'story line' created by multimillionaire 'journalists' yesterday on the Chris Matthews "show". This was found on Crooks and Liars.

*********************************************

So Tweety, all worked up about next year's mid-term elections, asks his panelon this week's "Chris Matthews Show" how many House seats will the Dems lose in the upcoming election and quotes some of Charlie Cook's predictions.

He blames high unemployment and healthcare reform for impending losses, and then notes how many seats Reagan lost and how many Clinton lost. What it's going to be like "after next November when the Democrats have to pay the piper for high unemployment, for questions - in fact, anger that you've all expressed in the last section about the healthcare bill and all those kinds of problems?"

TIME editor Richard Stengel praises Rahm Emanuel, saying how brilliant it was that Rahm put Democratic conservatives in conservative districts. (Buttering up the chief of staff for access, Richard?)

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker says House Democrats are concerned because they "walked the plank for Nancy Pelosi on cap-and-trade and now they've got to go with health care, the people are raising Cain about it at home, and so they're in a terrible bind and yes, they want to be team players so I think you're going to see a lot of fallout come this term."

Matthews says any House Democrat who puts their "yea" on health care reform "has got to be thinking 'I'm a target'".

CNBC's Trish Regan says that's because health care reform is an unpopular program (well, Trish, I'm guessing it is among your constituency, but there's a lot more of us than there are of them) and claims that voters are "more worried about spending and the deficit" and says there's a feeling their politicians are not doing what they want.

She says President Obama needs to make this health care program more popular, and Matthews agrees.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the Wall Street beat reporter for the New York Times, says "People are voting with their wallets next time. That's what this is. This is all about 'am I richer, am I poorer' and you know, everybody remembers how rich they were - ah, I don't know how rich they were, but only a year or two ago and unless Obama can get Democrats and get us back to that place next summer, I think it's going to be a tough road."

Matthews says, So the Republicans are promising to get it back for you?

Sorkin: Absolutely.

Then Parker add this final dollop of smug Villager "wisdom."

"There was never a constituency for health care. Let's remember that. When you have eighty five percent of Americans who are pretty satisfied with their policies, their insurance coverage and their health care, where was this constituency that we have to overhaul the system? It never was there."

Whoa, Nellie! Are you kidding me? Hey Kath, did you happen to notice that health care was the main issue in last year's election? Have you been reading all those health-care sob stories on the front page of your own paper? Can't wait until your ass-kissing paper closes and you're out on the street, hustling freelance work to cover your bills. Imagine, life where you can't afford a pedicure!

Matthews agrees. "Right. And I see trouble for the Democrats."

I'm going to make a different prediction. If the Democrats pass healthcare reform with a real public option, Democratic popularity will grow and we'll do well in the next election, with minimal losses.
Tags: Chris Matthews Show

Posted by: stormskies on September 28, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

My wife and I cancelled our Washington Post weekend subscription a few months ago, for many reasons, but the last straw was the termination of Froomkin (although I do miss the best part of the WaPo--the plastic bags they are delivered in, great for picking up dog poop). We then subscribed to the NY Times weekend subscription service to fill the minor void. Based upon this most recent revelation by the Times, we will now cancel our NY Times subscription.

Posted by: bubba on September 28, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

"You may have seen that there's a new meme afoot in the news world which has it that the mainstream media either ignores or is insufficiently 'in touch' with the right wing noise machine of Fox, Drudge, Glenn Beck, etc. What's notable however is that the idea seems to be emanating from the folks at Politico whose founders' theory of the media is that its narratives are largely defined by Matt Drudge and who used Drudge as the key vector to build their national audience. I'm not sure how these two facts compute."

They compute if you consider that "Das Kommissar" (aka "the Politico") was founded by an extreme right winger, and has consistently pushed right wing stories. It's not a "news" organization, it is a very well-financed far right disinformation project. And if people like you, Steve and Josh, would stop taking these scum seriously and just ignore them, they might dry up and blow away. But as long as they can get you talking about what they want you to talk about, they win.

And of course the booboisie of mainstream "journalists" - aka the otherwise-unemployables who couldn't get a social work degree in college - think they're doing right by going "right," which is just what Ol' Massa wants them to do.

Posted by: TCinLA on September 28, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

someone should be documenting this ongoing corporate takeover of the opinions and the ability to have opinions that are in any way influential in what's left of public discourse.

Yes, someone should probably do that, so maybe some day in the not too distant future something akin to 'darkness at noon' can be read and understood about the ol' usa...

john nichols on bill safire over at the Nation has a very succinct autopsy (no pun intended, bill, if yer readin' this from hell with tricky dick) of what decent journalists think of the newspeak of corporatism.

Posted by: neill on September 28, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

It's pretty clear the media is just using accusations of left-wing bias to excuse their hard-right slant on coverage. Nothing else really explains how casually they dismiss any left-wing criticism.

Posted by: soullite on September 28, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Don't they ever learn? All the while Judith Miller was faithfully writing down every word she heard from Scooter Libbey, and Dick Cheney was citing her articles as proof that these stories had appeared in reliable media sources, Ann Coulter was calling them "the Baghdad Times," the "Treason Times," and calling for the editor's head. You don't understand, Hoyt. Doing what the dominatrix tells you to do won't stop her from calling you a naughty boy and whipping you, because that's her job, and it's what she does.

Posted by: T-Rex on September 28, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"I can't watch TV for more than 5 minutes without praying for a nuclear holocaust." - Bill Hicks

Posted by: Speed on September 28, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Next up: NYT hires Orly Taitz as General Counsel.

Posted by: jimmy on September 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's 2009. The blogosphere is positively venerable by now. Those people I know who read the New York times do so for the arts stuff.The era of progressive households taking in the Times t show they're 'serious' is over, at least in my experience.
The model isn't shifting--it shifted a while ago.
We still pay attention to the NYT and the WaPo because we think that other people get their news from them. Some semi-mythical educated, concerned, yet computer-illiterate or -phobic people?
Do these people exist now that everybody in the upper middle class is required to have an iPhone?
How long before we look around for the Times' audience and see only other people looking around for the Times's audience?

Posted by: pbg on September 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

The people who say the NYT has a liberal bias are the same ones who call Obama "Hitler" and a "socialist."

If a few phone calls from angry, right-wing polemicists can make the NYT give Drudge and Limbaugh more ink then these MSM ombudsmen need to grow a pair.

Seriously, they do. They don't even realize when they're getting played.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 28, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK


I suppose that having a reporter monitor what Rush, Beck and the other far-right ravers are up to and reporting on all the lies and distortions could be useful. But I take it that's not what's going one. Pity.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on September 28, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

responsible journalism
Now that is an oxymoron.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on September 28, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

NYT ought to just have one page and call it Fraud Beat.

Posted by: cld on September 28, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Although it is true that the NYT is not liberal, and has not had a liberal bias for some time, it will be near impossible for them to lose that reputation.

Until mainstream liberals on TV are willing to pushback on that meme, it will continue. And mainstream liberals will not pushback, because then they won't get invited back.

Posted by: DR on September 28, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."

Because, of course, the Times would 1) assign an editor exclusively to promote liberal issues and b) omit that editor's name from the masthead in order to keep his / her identity, and therefore his / her work, a secret.

Riiiiiiiight.

"Liberal media," my eye. The reality-challenged likes of Matt Drudge still rule their world.

Posted by: Gregory on September 28, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, if they're setting up for a "set the record straight" type column, or perhaps "the Debunkers" superheros of the new news media--I'm fine with that ;)

Posted by: golack on September 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

The NYT is simply following the lead of our president in sparing no effort to please those who will not be pleased.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on September 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if the Times wants to pursue a path leading to an even hastier demise than the one already looming in its future, and the future of dead-tree journalism in general, it's all right with me. Good riddance.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on September 28, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

"insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio."

Also, in their reportage of education and childcare issues, they've been slow to represent the side of NAMBLA and the child molesters' point of view.

Posted by: chrenson on September 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Beck offered to rent one of the Times Palace's floors out in exchange for more favorable coverage. At this point Beck earns more money than they do.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 28, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

The right response for the Times is to report that it was a political theater by right-wing provocateurs, and look in depth at the actors, including why they target Acorn (because poor/black people shouldn't get help voting), without omitting Acorn's shortcomings.

The right response of the Administration is cut off Acorn until they reform, and then appropriate a large sum for voter registration and election tech, and challenge the GOP to show they're not out to nullify legitimate voters.

The right response for Clark Hoyt is to find a different career. True, the NYT will follow the lead of the WaPo in a heartbeat rather than let them get ahead on a story, yet is loathe to follow the blogosphere or Fox. But you can't write about the coverage if you can't acknowledge that it started off as a dirty trick and a coordinated PR blitz. The right response to Fox getting more brazen and strident ( http://bit.ly/3veEq ) is not to say, gee, maybe we haven't been paying them enough attention.

Posted by: curmudgeonly troll on September 28, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Back in 2004, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham wrote an article on the conservative media establishment called Tenacles of Rage. It is important to remember that, like the town hall disruptions, the conservative narratives are not a grassroots product:

From Harpers':

"The Republican "Message Machine," an octopus-like network of open and hidden microphones that he described as "perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system...

"It was an impressive presentation, in large part because Stein didn't refer to anybody as a villain, never mentioned the word "conspiracy." A lawyer who also managed a private equity investment fund—i.e., a man unintimidated by spread sheets and indifferent to the seductions of the pious left—Stein didn't begrudge the manufacturers of corporatist agitprop the successful distribution of their product in the national markets for the portentous catch-phrase and the camera-ready slogan. Having devoted several months to his search through the available documents, he was content to let the facts speak for themselves—fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years for the fabrication of "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas....

"The effort had taken many forms—the publication of expensively purchased and cleverly promoted tracts (Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, Charles Murray's Losing Ground, Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations), a steady flow of newsletters from more than 100 captive printing presses (among them those at The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in the Media, the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), generous distributions of academic programs and visiting professorships (to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities), the passing along of sound-bite slanders (to Bill O'Reilly and Matt Drudge), the formulation of newspaper op-ed pieces (for the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well as for the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Times). The prolonged siege of words had proved so successful in its result that on nearly every question of foreign or domestic policy in this year's presidential campaign, the frame and terms of the debate might as well have been assembled in Taiwan by Chinese child labor working from patterns furnished by the authors of ExxonMobil's annual report"


Posted by: Ted Frier on September 28, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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