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June 29, 2006

New York Times Strategy Of Cowering And Begging For Mercy Continues To Bear Fruit

Now seems like a good time to remember this section from Hard News by Seth Mnookin:

[A]ccording to half a dozen sources within the Times, Raines wanted to prove once and for all that he wasn't editing the paper in a way that betrayed his liberal beliefs... "My sense was that Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the warmongering out of Washington," former investigative editor Doug Frantz wrote in an email...Frantz, who personally edited some of [Judith] Miller's stories, went on to write, "He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration's position on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of Al Qaeda."

Let's see. How's that working out for them?

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee...said he will write Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, urging that the nation's chief law enforcer "begin an investigation and prosecution of the New York Times -- the reporters, the editors and the publisher."

"We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," King said.

I think the lesson here is clear: the NY Times still hasn't proven, ONCE AND FOR ALL, that they're not dirty liberals. But once they do, America's right will surely leave them alone. That's because America's right is all about honest, fair-minded criticism.

Posted at June 29, 2006 12:16 PM | TrackBack

Their liberalism results in them trying to guess what the current party line is and inevitably they tend to deviate. They should move their HQ to Washington and make sure their editors attend Mr. Rove's strategy sessions like everybody else. And no dozing off - pay attention, paperman.

Posted by: abb1 at June 29, 2006 01:22 PM


So what is the reason they (the NYT) want to be the president's punching bag?

Is it incompetence at the top that prevents the organization from reacting? Is it the intention of the top to serve as a convenient foil? What is the point? Why have an organization very capable of defending itself in print- not do so?

Is management that bad at the Times or is there some higher level game being played that I just don't see?

Posted by: patience at June 29, 2006 02:00 PM

patience, IMO, the war was a necessary thing for both parties, so the times did what it could to let it happen. now that the war is going on, it's still a necessary thing for both parties, but the "liberals" have a problem with how the "conservatives" are executing the war and that's where the recent criticism has come from. the NYT can't figure out how to fight back, because they likely see the conquest of the middle east as a necessary thing and don't want to screw any of that up while defending themselves. that leaves them with one option: be the president's punching bag.

Posted by: joe_christmas at June 29, 2006 02:12 PM

How about corruption? My guess is that dissing the NYT despite its loyal support of our policies is intended to grease the way for Rupert Murdoch to buy out the Times. The NY Times-Post, I can see it now.

Posted by: John at June 29, 2006 06:59 PM

I think joe_christmas has it right. Jonathan always reminds us that the press hotshots like to think of themselves as players first and foremost. To give up on a claim to forming the elite consensus, and shaping support for it, would make them outsiders. It's easier, ultimately, for them to endure a little hazing from the wingnuts and grovel a bit. They can weather it.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at June 29, 2006 08:05 PM

Recently Robert Scheer pointed out that the Wall Street Journal also printed a story on Bush's abuse of power but is not a target as is the New York Times.

How convenient to leave out The Wall Street Journal, which editorially supports the administration but which also covered this latest example of Bush's abuse of power in its news pages. The administration's attack on the Times, in fact, is not really about national security, but rather follows a domestic political agenda that requires attacking free media that dare offer criticism.

* * * * * *

Why the Times is a target and not the Wall Street Journal?

This book review of "The Trust" the American Prospect provides some insight into our premier family owned newspaper.

(By the way this column seems to point out the Times as an exception to Jonathan's claim that the news media is about profit not news while at the same time agrees with Jonathan that all the rest really are about making money.) An excerpt from the linked article:

The authors routinely refer to Punch as "powerful" or "influential," yet they spend little time discussing the nature of that power. As publisher, chairman, and CEO, Punch was selected by a self-perpetuating, private, secretive body. His length of term was indeterminate, and the grounds and method of his removal were ambiguous. This is true of many big businesses, but what is interesting about the Times is that it has a "public trust" role that normal, profit-maximizing companies don't have. We all have more of a stake in what The New York Times does than in what a potato chip manufacturer does.

During Punch's 34-year tenure, there were eight different presidents of the United States, from Kennedy to Clinton, as well as hundreds of members of the House and Senate who came and went. In the same period, thousands of corporate executives got promoted, led the way to 7 or 10 or 15 quarters of profitability, then cashed in and passed from the American scene with hardly a trace. Not so with the publishers of The New York Times--for one thing, they tend to stay in power a long time. In theory, at least, Arthur, Jr., could run the paper into the 2030s.

On the other hand, there are many limits on the publisher's power. Journalistically, the position is almost papal, in the sense that the best its holder can hope to do is to keep the institution going. It's also a situation where you can prepare yourself for the calling, but it's considered unseemly to campaign for it.

The head of the Times does not have the power to shake things up very much. The real change agents in American journalism are usually people like the self-titled SOB Allen Neuharth of Gannett, the founder of USA TODAY, who are not even trying to uphold the standards embraced by the Times. Or alternatively, change is made by outsiders like Ted Turner, who created CNN and, with it, the 24-hour news cycle.

Because of the responsibility the Sulzberger family feels to maintain journalism's highest standards, the head of the Times is not even free to make as much money as possible. In this way, the position is different from that of heads of other media operations, where the founding family has given way to outside directors and has sold its stock to the public. On the opposite coast, The Los Angeles Times provides a cautionary tale: When the Chandler family dropped its active running of the paper, they turned to the cereal maker Mark Willes from General Mills, whose only prior involvement with the newspaper business was as a reader. In search of profit, Willes forced The Los Angeles Times's newsroom to play ball with the newspaper's business office, which resulted recently in an embarrassing joint venture with a local arena--precisely the kind of thing the Sulzbergers are raised to avoid.

* * * * * * * *

Here is a review of another book "Time of Our Times" from Policy Review which sheds some light on the inconsistent reporting done by the Times.

AUTHORITY, IN A WORD finally, was what the family ownership of the New York Times represented in the century of ownership, now being carried on in the fourth generation. As potent media proprietors, the family operated as gatekeeper - that is, one of the small number of sentinels who judged what was "news" at a given moment, who determined what fads and trends passed a cultural taste test and were therefore worthy of public discussion.

The revolution still accelerating through the "communications" universe has already atrophied the role of authority and the function of gatekeeping. To be sure, the quality with which either has been exercised over this century has been uneven, to put it mildly - almost wholly dependent on the character and judgment of the individuals involved. Which is to say, the power of the gatekeepers has been hierarchical, not consensual. And we have come increasingly to think of consent as indispensable in legitimizing power.

Posted by: rob payne at June 30, 2006 02:19 AM

Rob, not necessarily an exception, but more a complement. Above a certain level of money, the emphasis on making it shifts over to making enough of it to remain in a power bloc. If you've got your debt weaponized properly, you can actually lose money, still live like a king and keep exercising power. What did Trump do, after all, but turn a few millions in assets into a great, stinking albatross that can be used for extortion?

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at June 30, 2006 01:20 PM

J. Alva Scruggs,

True enough and in fact that is what happened at the last two companies I worked at. Management got their golden parachutes even while causing the companies to lose money by over spending and under bidding. In fact one deliberately underbid a job for the French in order to keep the company going.

However that does not really explain why Bush is targeting the New York Times but not the Wall Street Journal. I posted the links as a possibility of what the reason may be after doing some research on the internet to try and learn something more about the Times history and who owns it and what they are all about.

Posted by: rob payne at June 30, 2006 02:33 PM

Rob, your links and your research give me more to think about than I can fit in a comment. For which, thanks. It's good stuff and helps to build a better model.

Posted by: at June 30, 2006 04:33 PM

I am glad you found the links interesting as did I. It is particularly fascinating when you consider how much the news molds our world view.

Posted by: rob payne at July 1, 2006 01:04 AM