As I learned a few days ago, in the course of expressing his amazement at Linda Greenhouse’s highly partisan remarks* in a Radcliffe speech in June 2006, Daniel Okrent, who served as the New York Times’s first public editor (or ombudsman) from 2003 to 2005, is reported to have said that “he never received a single complaint about bias in Greenhouse’s coverage” of the Supreme Court. Of course, given Greenhouse’s long history of partisanship and bias, including her participation in a 1989 pro-abortion rally in D.C., it may well be that readers figured that complaining was futile.
As faithful Bench Memos readers will recall, a week ago I exposed Greenhouse’s conflict of interest in reporting on Supreme Court cases in which her husband, Eugene R. Fidell, participated. Little did I imagine that I might be making history when I e-mailed a complaint about the matter to the Times’s current public editor, Clark Hoyt, the following morning. My e-mail asked how it was that Greenhouse was permitted to report on the cases and what the Times’s conflict-of-interest policies are.
Alas, six days later, I have received no response from Mr. Hoyt—beyond the automatic computer-generated assurance that he or an associate “read every message”, that they “forward many messages to appropriate newsroom staffers and follow up to be sure concerns raised in those messages are treated with serious consideration”, and that “[i]f a further reply is warranted, you will be hearing from us shortly.” In fairness to Mr. Hoyt, it may well be that he is attending to the matter or that he is buried under an avalanche of other complaints that the Times’s biased news coverage has generated.
Believing that complaints should be dealt with on their merits rather than based on the number of complainers, I’m not interested in prodding folks to contact Mr. Hoyt. But if the unusually strong reaction—all anti-Greenhouse—to my post last week is any indication, many of you may already be so inclined. If so, you may reach Mr. Hoyt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* After recounting her “crying jag” at a Simon and Garfunkel concert in 2003 or so, Greenhouse, you may recall, complained about treatment of enemy combatants, “the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom,” and “the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.”