The New York Times’s credibility is slipping away like barflies after last call.
The latest shot, of course, is former correspondent Jayson Blair’s “reporting,” which slid from docudrama to outright fiction. But the Times deserves blame for more than just this one-man weapon of mass deception. The paper also should be scorned for what it refuses to cover.
The May 11 Times spent nearly eight square feet of newsprint detailing Blair’s “chain of falsifications and plagiarism that unraveled” after his supervisors checked his work, an “Editor’s Note” explained. (Normally, string unravels. At the Times, chains unravel, too.)
Obviously, this involves more than errors. Being human, we journalists do make mistakes.
For instance, after reading commentator Stanley Kurtz’s April 30 essay in National Review Online, I criticized him for supporting anti-sodomy laws. I hadn’t done all my homework — three other Kurtz pieces clearly demonstrate his opposition to such restrictions. Sorry, Stanley.
But the Times’s reputation and vast resources exact a standard increasingly beyond its grasp.
The day the Times self-flagellated over Blair, its page-two Corrections box repaired two previous pieces. A veritable corrections table of contents followed, listing mini-corrections boxes in the Money & Business, Sunday Styles, Real Estate, The City, and Westchester sections.
Beyond the Times’s sins of commission, its sins of omission merit additional brickbats. The Times neglects news that challenges its leftist creed and co-religionists.
“There are white niggers,” former Klansman and U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (D., W.V.) told Fox News Sunday on March 4, 2001. “I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I’m going to use that word.” (Byrd soon apologized.)
Since, presumably, only Republicans are racists, it would have defiled the Times’ liberal faith to acknowledge that the Senate’s most senior Democrat willfully said “niggers” twice on national TV. So, the Times maintained total silence until it published Andrew Sullivan’s March 18 op-ed lamenting the incident’s low profile.
Compare this quietude to the Times’s 14-day, seven-article harangue after former Rep. Dick Armey (R., Tex.) called gay Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) “Barney Fag” in January 1995. (Armey tearfully apologized for that “stumbled word.”) An unsigned editorial the next day screamed: “Hate speech comes to Congress.”
Laura Bush and Senator Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) addressed the Congress of Racial Equality’s 19th annual Martin Luther King Day awards banquet. Baseball legend Hank Aaron was among those honored January 20.
The First Lady and the recently elected Senate Majority Leader appeared before a black-tie crowd of 2,000 at Manhattan’s Sheraton Hotel on West 53rd Street, 10 blocks from Times headquarters. The president’s wife and America’s number-three Republican spoke stirringly before this largely black audience about Dr. King’s legacy and the status of blacks today. Meanwhile, Trent Lott’s race flap, U. Michigan’s diversity case and President Bush’s controversial renomination of judge Charles Pickering loomed in the air.
What drama. What a story!
Well, it never made the Times, either. Influential, white Republicans dining with center-right black Americans a quarter-mile from the Times’s newsroom? That, too, was unfit to print.
“Our editors decided that this year’s event did not warrant coverage,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. stated in a February 6 letter to “Roger” Innis (an apparent composite of CORE President Roy Innis and his spokesman-son, Niger). “I trust their judgment,” Sulzberger added.
Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said last December 18 that Osama bin Laden is popular among some Middle Easterners because “He’s been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and these people are extremely grateful. We haven’t done that.” The Washington Post, AP, UPI, and NPR are among many outlets that discussed Murray’s praise for America’s enemy-in-chief. The Nexis and NYT.com databases show that the Times has not mentioned this matter.
As America’s vaunted “Paper of Record,” the Times theoretically chronicles key events to inform today’s citizens and, eventually, enlighten readers as yet unborn.
In reality, the New York Times has devolved into the West 43rd Street Gazette. This flimsy rag entirely ignores major news stories, filters many through its merlot-tinted glasses and sloppily reports others. As we now know, it even invents things.
That’s why the Old Gray Lady is a tramp.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.