There's plenty to criticize about America's newspaper of record. So why do conservatives make up reasons that don't exist?
McGowan also flays Sulzberger’s handpicked liberal op-ed columnists. Every liberal Times columnist shows up more than once in this book, and always in a bad light: Paul Krugman is mentioned eight times, Bob Herbert seven, Nicholas Kristof four. McGowan fails to mention that Sulzberger has also hand-picked conservatives David Brooks, William Kristol, and Ross Douthat as op-ed page columnists, and conservative spin-meisters such as Tobin Harshaw (of the Times’ Opinionator), who orchestrates much of the online commentary. Brooks appears only once in Gray Lady Down, as “one of the two house conservatives,” but poor Ross Douthat doesn’t even rate a mention. Bill Kristol, who wrote a column twice a week for a year for the Times (which McGowan doesn’t tell his readers) also pops up just once—to declare, from his perch at the Weekly Standard, that the Times is part of an “axis of appeasement.”
Reporting like this isn’t in error; either it’s dishonest or it reflects a blockage in McGowan’s thinking that’s unnerving in a would-be arbiter of good journalism. Still, his conclusion affirms—with an eloquence uncharacteristic of the rest of the book—that
[o]ur civic culture needs a common narrative and a national forum that is free of cant—an honest broker of hard news and detached analysis, where the editorial pages are not spread like invisible ink between the lines of its news and cultural reviews. As our political system grows more polarized, and political parties play harder toward their base, it is even more important that we have news organizations whose honest reporting can form a DMZ between opposing forces trapped in their own information cocoons.
Amen. Unfortunately, Gray Lady Down never breaks out of its own ideological cocoon long enough to stop compounding the problem.
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