Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Times and the Vileness Derby

Daniel Okrent, the New York Times post-Jayson Blair ombudsman, or “public editor” as his column is called, writes last Sunday, I believe correctly, that the paper’s coverage of the election has been flawed but essentially fair to both candidates and parties. He calls out Steve Schwenk, a man who apparently wrote a Times writer he hoped “your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war” and was stupid enough to include his name. Fair enough for Okrent, who disclaims he’s a Kerry supporter, to use this quote as an example of vituperative mail reporters accused of bias are sometimes receive.

But then Okrent goes a step further:

“Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as those on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year.”

Whoa, Smokey. Stop right there. First off, following the line about women being insulted and threatened with that of the left winning said ‘vileness derby’ seems to illicitly link the two. Does Okrent mean to charge the left with not only being more vile but more venomous towards female journalists? Probably not, so this seems to be the perfect example of the sloppy, slanted writing it’s Okrent’s job to defend the Times’ readers against. These two sentences represent the worst of Times news analysis: pathetically overcompensating for perceived liberal bias with ridiculous left-bashing assumptions.

I’m not sure what barometer Okrent is using to measure the ‘vileness derby’ but besides the Schwenk quote (and I’m sure there are plenty he could have chosen from on the other side) he doesn’t give any more support for giving progressives the foul crown. This in the same year Zell Miller called John Kerry a traitor at the RNC and his purple hearts were mocked in the same room; the Swift Boat veterans call a distinguished war hero a coward; Sean Hannity equates liberals with evil; and Ann Coulter writes we’re all perfidious commie cowards, echoing the argument the radical side of her party has used to counter any voice of dissent post 9/11. I could go on.

So thanks Danny O. for recklessly tossing out a gross generalization that perpetuates the myth of the ‘hysterical left’ and denigrates the paper it was your intention to defend. Well done.


Blogger z said...

I (dyed-in-the-wool Republican friend of DL Rock – yes, he does know a few Republicans) have oft complained and whined about the NY Times’ list to the left. When I whined once too often, you conceded that the Times DOES have an ‘urban’ slant, but not a ‘left’ slant. Out of respect for a friend, I accepted that and still do to a certain extent. The urban audience is, after all, the NY Times’ bread and butter.

I also quite sympathize with Okrent. I can only imagine how many times a day he must field comments. The thing is – he chose his profession just like I chose mine (that individual responsibility thing again). I wouldn’t have chosen his, but since he did…

All that said, YES, THE NY TIMES HAS A SLANT! I don’t care how careful a journalist one is, personal feelings about a candidate or issue are going to slip into an individual’s writing. Whether it is in the choice of words, or whether it is in the quotes chosen to be included or whether it is in the interpretation of statistical data, in the words of that C&W song, ‘the heart won’t lie!’

I don’t care if this guy gets “just as many” complaints about the paper’s treatment of Kerry. That’s only because, no matter how ‘left’ you are, there is ALWAYS someone ‘left-er’ who won’t see things your way. (And, of course, there is always someone ‘right-er’, too.

Now, what slant is it that the NY Times is ‘guilty’ of? In this election it is toward Kerry. And, if the reason is that the Senator is watching out for “urban” issues better than the other guy, then so be it. I would simply caution my country folk compatriots to read the NY Times with this in mind. Reader beware!

Now, as to David’s other laments about the Swift Boat Vets, the trashy purple heart belittling at the RNC and so forth. Fine, you are due a little righteous indignation. But keep in mind. Those are not coming from newspapers. It is newspapers that are reporting them as well they should. I also believe the NY Times should be reviewing the anti-candidate books in their book review section. They are after all selling like hotcakes (flapjacks, pancakes, griddle cakes, etc)

There, David, I gave you my comments and I even honored your tradition of leaving ‘the other guy’s’ name out of our conversations!

1:32 PM  

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