Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 28, 2009

KELLER WEIGHS IN ON 'OPINION MEDIA' INTEREST.... Following up on an earlier item, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt lamented his paper's coverage of stories like ACORN and Van Jones. He spoke to Jill Abramson, the paper's managing editor for news, who agreed with Hoyt about the Times neglecting "the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio."

In his column on the subject, Hoyt reported that Abramson and NYT executive editor Bill Keller plan to "assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies." In the larger context, this new editorial assignment seemed to be focused on the right -- the Times thinks it's missing stories important to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and is taking steps to keep apprised of right-wing interests.

It turns out, Hoyt's piece was incomplete. Greg Sargent talked to the NYT and found that it has something more ideologically diverse in mind. Through a spokesperson, Bill Keller said:

"We haven't assigned someone to be in charge of 'opinion media.' We've asked a colleague who happens to be a voracious consumer of online political buzz to help us (meaning me and Jill) informally, stay current with what issues are erupting, right and left. The responsibility for covering the subject still resides with the reporters on those beats, their editors, and ultimately me and Jill."

This seems a bit different than what Hoyt described yesterday. Indeed, Keller's comments make it seem as if someone who's already on staff, and who likes to keep up with online buzz, will let some of the leading editors know what's generating attention below the surface.

There's nothing especially wrong with this -- it might even be a good idea -- so long as the focus isn't exclusively on "the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio," the NYT doesn't consider something "news" just because Limbaugh is talking about it, and the paper is willing to help separate fact from fiction for its readers.

Steve Benen 4:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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I didn't know Judy Miller was still on the Times' payroll...

Posted by: anonymoose on September 28, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

There's an entire political party out there that considers something to be "news" just because Rush Limbaugh talks about it.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 28, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Considering that all the real action is online these days, I find it fairly sad that these people aren't already current about what's going on. They're like people who finally hire someone to watch the telegraph machine, after seeing it spew paper for ten years.

After all, it was about ten years ago that Drudge "broke" the Lewinsky scandal. You'd think they would have figured this thing out by now. Then again, the Times probably still has someone manning their telegraph machine; just in case.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 28, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

It would nice if when called out as the liberal media someone would have the courage to say, "Liberal, huh, we show you liberal..." vs. "What can we do to prove we aren't liberal ?"

They might as well call this the Squeaky Wheel Desk, who ever makes the most noise get the most coverage.

Posted by: ScottW on September 28, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe the revisionist spin. The story as originally reported is probably more accurate. I am surprised that they don't just get the daily "news" directly from Drudge the way they do it at The Politico.

Let's face it, we progressives don't have a regular spokesman so it is impossible for professional reporters at places like the Times to take us seriously. We are just the rabble. Limbaugh and Fox News are the princes of American politics.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 28, 2009 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

"it might even be a good idea". Agreed! Given that all sorts of assertions are widely circulated and credited, it would be a v. valuable service if the NYT and institutions like it brought their investigative skills to be bear and looked into some of them to see if they were true in whole or in part, what the broader context is and so on--provided that they then gave their readers (viewers) the benefit of what they learned in this way. For instance, in those cases, which are presumably not infrequent, in which the assertions aren't true, or are wildly misleading by saying so, and if the assertions are produced and circulated by propagandists--if you will there is a story behind the story-- by telling us this too.

Posted by: J on September 28, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

They might as well call this the Squeaky Wheel Desk, who ever makes the most noise get the most coverage.

I wish it were true, but it's only conservative squeaking that these people listen to. When liberals squeak and complain and finally shout, it just shows what uncouth jerks we are; which is used to justify marginalizing us.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why liberals keep saying stuff about the loudest people getting the attention of the media, when it's obvious that liberals get ignored no matter what we do. Fortunately, the media's influence is waning every year, so we continue our slow trek to complete domination while the media continues to think it's 1994 and 2002 simultaneously.

Hell, the media's so loony that they think Olbermann's a liberal, Drudge is non-partisan, and Limbaugh is a moderate-conservative taking the pulse of America. Even moderate-libs don't exist in their world, except as the angry people who cuss too much.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 28, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

my guess is that keller is quickly backpedalling on this matter, since there is no doubt how to read hoyt's column.

Posted by: howard on September 28, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The real shame is that if NYT actually did reprting on ACORN, they'd find that ACORN is the victim of a right wing-smear campaign.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on September 28, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hoyt reported that Abramson and NYT executive editor Bill Keller plan to "assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on FAKE bubbling controversies."


Posted by: Joe Friday on September 28, 2009 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I read Hoyt's scribble last night andoticed the mention of the right-responsive-patrol-to-be. But the whole article -- not just that bit -- irked me to the point where I felt motivated to send him a letter:

Dear Sir,
I, too, think NY Times "tuned in" into the Acorn story a bit too late; not only the right-wing but also the left-wing blogosphere was "boiling with it" (including the video) for days, before there was the first mention of it in the Times. But, I kept hoping that the delay meant you (the Times) would make the story a centerpiece of a full article and present both sides of the controversy.

We know how many Acorn employees fell for the trick (or pretended to) -- Drudge and Fox gave that info to us, in spades. But, nobody ever said how many fish refused the bait or pretended to take it, only to call the police afterwards. I would not expect the rightards to mention that; it's not in their interest, despite the claim of being "fair and balanced". But, you???

Another aspect of the story that the Times seems to have passed on (at least, I haven't seen anything written from that angle) is that, in their mad rush to condemn the entire Acorn for the few bad apples, the Congress has passed a hasty bill cutting off all the federal funding to it. But, in order not to make the bill look like it was aiming at a single, specific, organization (illegal), it seems to have passed a bill which would bar a lot of others (like Blackwater/Xe, for example) from receiving any federal funds, too. "Baby with the bath" kind of thing which, I'd have thought, might have tickled someone's funny bone to the extent of compiling a full list of other barrels deemed rotten because of a few bad apples.

Nor have you mentioned anything about several of the fRight-wing Governors' posturing -- boasting about cutting state funds to Acorn... where there had been no such funds *to* cut.

You could, still, make up for the tardiness in reporting the story, by reporting it in depth. Not just the stenographic "he said, she said", the way you so often do... Instead, investigate for yourselves and report the facts, all the facts, and only the facts.

Best regards,

Posted by: exlibra on September 28, 2009 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I'm shallow, stupid, noisy, and angry. I'd be perfect for that NYT job.

Let me see if I have this straight...if you make enough noise about something, even if you're intentionally wrong and really, really dumb, you deserve coverage in the Times?

Posted by: jrw on September 28, 2009 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

It is a good thing that the New York Times is using its prestige to cover the alternative reality created by the Conservative Media Establishment -- since the fiction created in the Conservative Echo Chamber or Republican Noise Machine is what we are all talking about every day anyway.

What we have seen since Obama's election is that the right wing's control of a powerful media allows them to dominate the national discussion even when they are electorally weak by working in unison to create narratives that everyone must respond to, either positively or negatively. To its credit, MSNBC exists primarily to debunk and deconstruct right wing disinformation narratives.

Conspiracy may be the wrong word to use, but there is a degree of coordination and inter-locking directorates on the Right that creates the impression of an ideological conspiracy, or cartel. There is a a vast right wing media organization that is trying to set both the tone for debate and the issues we talk about and the conceptual categories of that debate. Anyone who pays attention to media cannot fail to notice the frightening robotic uniformity of the talking points that are used by the Radical Right up and down the line, from blogs, to radio to FOX and finally to Republican lawmakers who are far more the well-kept captives of this conservative movement than its leaders, as witnessed by the inability of any promonent Republican to distance themselves from the lunatic ravings of Rush et al. This is because wealthy right wingers like Murdoch and Richard Mellon Scaife were quite explicit when they poured their billions into created right wing think tanks, media outlets and PR front organizations that their goal was to change American culture, reorient the Vital Center of American politics by pulling it hard to the right, change the vernacular so that words like "freedom" meant destuction of the democratic state so that the public would then become dependent on a powerful oligarchy of the Murdochs and Scaifs.

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 29, 2009 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Romase on October 4, 2009 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK
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