Newspaper Blogs

June 07, 2003

NEW YORK TIMES ROUNDUP....Jim Henley has this to say about the New York Times:

Righties like Alan [Sullivan] are convinced that the media is reflexively liberal, lefties like Avedon Carol are as certain it serves its right wing masters. Me, I think the media just sucks, and has a statist, not necessarily liberal, tilt built into its very structure.

Of course it does, Jim. I've come to realize that the Times isn't really a newspaper at all, it's the perfect political Rorschach test: just ask someone to read a copy, note down what they mumble irritably about, and then take the mirror image. That's their political leaning.

Of course, there's little doubt that Times reporters really do trend pretty liberal socially, but I wonder if conservatives realize how lucky they are that this is so? (Aside from giving them a good punching bag, of course.) I figure that the mostly Southern, mostly rural, mostly Christian mega-conservatives — the rightmost 15% or so of the country — that are covered so poorly by the Times are actually a pretty scary bunch to most Americans. So while it's true that Times reporting of this group might indeed be rare and condescending, that's actually better than being frequent and enthusiastic. If they got the coverage they deserved, Republicans probably wouldn't win another election for the next 50 years.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds, offering the Times some otherwise interesting advice, says, laughably:

Where are the Ken Laynes, the Mark Steyns, etc. at the Times? The Times has been an intellectual and political monoculture for a long time, and that makes it hard for it to engage in the kind of critical evaluation of its own coverage that's necessary if it wants to be a real national paper, rather than a northeastern city paper with national aspirations.

Are its critics really so blinded that they are under the impression that the Times is just some provincial broadsheet desperately trying to get some recognition in the world? How about a little perspective here?

As for me, I hope the Times doesn't cave in to its right wing critics. Over at RealClear Politics, for example, John McIntyre says that the problem is that the Times has "drifted from the center-left to the hard-left," using a definition of "hard-left" that seemingly includes anyone who thought we should give UN inspectors more time in Iraq. There are damn few combative liberal voices left in the mainstream American press, and I hope the Times holds onto what's left of the ones it has. If they cave in, who's left?

Posted by Kevin Drum at June 7, 2003 04:14 PM | TrackBack


Mr. McIntyre has lost all ability to think critically, it would appear. If you read a little further down the page he accuses the Dems of using military kids as political props in the tax credit fiasco, and also accuses Gore of using military absentee votes in Florida of the same thing. If memory serves, it was the Republicans using those absentee votes as a huge issue in the recounts, not the Dems.

Is that the new requirement for membership in the Republican hard-right? "Come right in; check your brains at the door. You won't be needing them here."

Posted by: Linkmeister at June 7, 2003 04:25 PM | PERMALINK

Other than Krugman, it seems hard to find any consistant criticism of Bush in the Times (from what I've seen, but I don't read it every day - I prefer my city's paper, the Boston Globe...oddly enough, owned by the Times Co), and there's Safire to balance that out, right?

The only consistant bias I can find in the mainstream media these days is towards ratings...

Posted by: JoeF at June 7, 2003 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

There seem to be an awful lot of Americans who don't understand how far left "hard left" is. Has American politics really shifted that far right?

The NYT will be hard-left the minute it starts advocating the common ownership of the means of production, and a socialist world revolution to accomplish it.

Posted by: Keith at June 7, 2003 04:34 PM | PERMALINK

"just ask someone to read a copy, note down what they mumble irritably about, and then take the mirror image. That's their political leaning."

This has been confirmed experimentally.

Vallone, Ross and Lepper (1985) - "The hostile media phenomenon":

In the experiment they selected six news segments covering the Beirut massacre in 1982, and showed them to 144 Stanford students with varying initial views about the Middle East, some of them recruited from the pro-Israeli and pro-Arab associations. After viewing the videotape the students were asked to report their perceptions of the fairness and objectivity of the news program they had viewed.

Each side saw the segments biased in favor of the other side. Some of the items stress that the partisans actually saw different news programs. Partisans reported that the program referred to the other party in more favorable ways, and they believed that the programs would lead undecided viewers to become more hostile to their side. But even when holding constant their perceptions about the content, the differences in perception of bias were still significant.

Hastorf and Cantril (1954) "They Saw a Game" is in a similar vein. (Got both studies from "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making" by Scott Plous.)

Posted by: taktile at June 7, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

Too many liberals fail to give credit to the NYT for trying to report stories right. Yes, there are huge problems, but you will not find another paper writing visionary multi-part front page stories on AIDS in Africa just because it's important with the full knowledge that the stories will be expensive to write and won't draw in additional readers.

Posted by: MattS at June 7, 2003 05:23 PM | PERMALINK

The pathetic thing about so much of the right-wing times-bashing is how selective it is. Any truly detailed analysis of the times on a sustained basis - i've engaged conservative friends in this very exercise - demonstrates Kevin's (and apparently the research's) point.

Which is to say that the times is a pretty flawed enterprise. but it's a better enterprise, in aggregate, than any of the others out there, because news reporting is a very problematic profession at best.

The demonization of the times as the left-listing enterprise driven by howell raines has never been rooted in fact. it is merely a device by the right to lessen the influence of the times, a game that the right plays exceptionally skillfully.

Posted by: howard at June 7, 2003 05:31 PM | PERMALINK

I have always thought that the liberal bias in the news is really objectivity. Don't get me wrong I am not claiming all news reporting achieves anything like objectivity. But the intent and stated purpose of news is to be objective. A true conservative (small "c") can't really be objective because, by definition, everything worth knowing is already known. Broadmindedness and tolerance of things that are different is impossible if you aren't open to anything new. But that is what "news" is. It is trying to see both sides of the truth in a set of circumstances without prejudice, even if it is completely againt your personal beliefs. If a reader confuses that lack of bias with the reporters personal beliefs and interprets it as approval it would look very much like "liberal bias."

Posted by: pamur at June 7, 2003 06:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the "liberal bias" claim is the most brilliant pieces of propaganda in the latter half of the 20th century.

Liberals favor the weak, the oppressed, especially those systematically, unfairly so, and even cognitively favor those people and their ideas. Conservatives spun themselves off as being systematically, unfairly oppressed, causing, in an unthinking knee-jerk reaction, liberalism to self-destruct.

Of course, when Rush Limbaugh calls you biased, that's a joke, but it fit in so nicely that people took it seriously. And it was infinitely appealing to conservatives -- now you've got a self-flattering way to cognitively dispose of anything you don't like. The confirmation bias is so obvious. But it put people on the defensive, and they didn't push back.

Posted by: taktile at June 7, 2003 07:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I've always thought the conservative attack on the Times was being done at some semi-subtle lizard brain level, where the people doing that realize that if they get the most prominent left wing newspaper in the country to even be a little less left, then the center of the country will shift a little further to the right.

I say bullshit to that.

It's what I like to call Mara Liason Disease. If you've got Mara and Ghengis Kahn having a debate, well by-gum the moderate, Jim Leher sponsored position will be somewhere in the middle.

"Ok, it's obvious both of you want to have a better world. So Ghengis, you can agree that sacking and destruction will be limited to 5 days a week, and Mara, in the interests of fairness, you agree that all prisoners will be impaled on spikes. Reasonable."

That's an actual, factual quote from Leher. That debate really wasn't pretty.

Stop! Leher! Now! Exclamation! Mark!

In all seriousness, that's the game that's being played. When Instasullykaus swarm like bugs on Brit Hume, well, that'll be the day, won't it?

Posted by: SamAm at June 7, 2003 07:15 PM | PERMALINK

William Safire, Trostkyite.

Bill Keller, Marxist/Leninist.

Judith Miller, Weather Underground.

Nicholas Christof, committed atheist.

Paul Krugman, communist.

Maureen Dowd, Fidelista.

Bob Herbert, Black Panther.

Frank Rich, radical lesbian separtist.

Posted by: tristero at June 7, 2003 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff Gerth se dice "Viva la Raza!"

Jayson Blair might have even been in Massachusetts at one point. You know, if he came out against affirmative action, he'd have a job with Human Events or World Net Daily in seconds.

Posted by: jesse at June 7, 2003 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

The bizarre thing is that, generally, standards for journalistic accuracy are quite low. The NYT had its share of problems, but what is really jarring is that other newspapers are more liable to suffer from innacurate reporting than the NYT and that we accept this as "the cost of doing business."

Back about 10 years ago, all of the NY-metro area papers reported a story involving a member of my family. What was astounding was that all of the papers except the NYT got a number of facts wrong in the stories. The only thing I can assume about the Times is that (a) they had a good day that day, or (b) standards at the Times have gone down far enough to match most other newspapers.

Posted by: Dean at June 7, 2003 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the biggest failure here is the misunderstanding between bias and belief; the NYT has always had a belief in socially progressive causes and this is in a large part what has driven it to become the paper it is. Belief is different however from bias and the New York times has come under increasing pressure to acknowledge this. This isn’t a new thing; in the past the NYT recognised the importance of news and opinion separation. The dilemma has however only been brought to the fore now because of competitive market forces; the NYT is far better placed to provide accurate news than any right wing blogs. The blogs however are in a competitive market that ensures far better opinion.

Posted by: Giles at June 7, 2003 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I figure that the mostly Southern, mostly rural, mostly Christian mega-conservatives — the rightmost 15% or so of the country — that are covered so poorly by the Times are actually a pretty scary bunch to most Americans."

Who do you think are more scary to "most Americans" - the rightmost 15% or the leftmost 15%? I would put a lot of money on the leftmost 15%...

Posted by: Al at June 7, 2003 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I seriously doubt that. You'd have to go to the leftmost 1.5%, maybe, to find Americans who really want to nationalize the means of production and call everyone 'comrade'. The far left in this country goes about as far as being against animal testing and wanting to change US foreign policy.

That's nothing like as frightening as the Rightmost 15%, who basically want to bring back the Middle Ages, and are not afraid to plant bombs to prove it.

Posted by: craigie at June 8, 2003 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd wager that the far left these days are mostly anti-globalization anarchist types.

Posted by: JoeF at June 8, 2003 02:53 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who is more afraid of a few peacenicks than they are of "Aryan" militias is probably too far gone to know whether the NYT is biased.

Journalism in America is not in a very good state right now, but it's always had a bit of a conservative bias. Most reporters are socially liberal, but if you really went down the list of what issues are covered in the newsmedia and how they are covered, you might begin to notice that liberal positions generally get pretty shortshrift.

As I've noted before, even during the big healthcare debate of the '90s, virtually no one was advocating single-payer (unless you count Tom Tomorrow) - universal healthcare was treated as pretty far-left pie-in-the-sky. Yet more than two-thirds of Americans were saying they would have been happy to pay more in taxes to get something like an NHS-style system. It's quite clear that mainstream America was far to the left of the newsmedia (never mind the politicians).

The only reason the "partial-birth" scam has any traction is that the media makes very little effort to explain that the claims made about late-term abortion are just plain false. "Even the liberal New York Times" reported that the Computer Decency Act would suppress pornography, and I can't say I saw much in that paper expaining that (a) it would do much more than that and (b) there is no known danger from seeing pornography in the first place. It's a rare day that one sees anything about effective prison rehabilitation programs (except for the assumption that there's no such thing as rehabilitation - a conservative canard that flies in the face of thousands of years of human history).

50 years ago the media was liberal enough that it at least discussed some of these things. And, not unpredictably, Americans tended to support the loosening of restraints on pornography and to oppose the death penalty. The media has clearly moved to the right, and on many issues brought the public with them. However, even today, most people still support universal healthcare; the newspapers still show no signs of taking this seriously.

I'd say the NYT is better than most papers, and probably less illiberal, too, but that makes them neither liberal nor unbiased. In the main, they tend to reflect the biases of people who are socially liberal but who know a lot less than they ought to, having received too many of their prejudices from right-wing media.

Posted by: Avedon at June 8, 2003 04:53 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives are so much better at "working the refs" than liberals. We are terrified of offending someone, of being taken on by the Wurlitzer. Conservatives fear nothing.

Posted by: MattB at June 8, 2003 05:52 AM | PERMALINK

I was going to object, guys, to some of the nonsense peddled above, especially Kevin's view that all except the morally superior minority, those exactly like himself, are "scary". He refers to 15%, but do we think he really means anything under, say, 90%?
From time to time, I tell lefties that what they say is not only false--which generally goes without saying, but that everybody knows it's false, which ought to provide a little practical advice. As in shut up. Stop digging.
But they never do.
Keep it up, guys.

Posted by: RIchard Aubrey at June 8, 2003 05:55 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently Richard has the power to read Kevin's mind and tell him what he *really* means. After all, its so easy to say something substantiative, its so very challenging to properly attack someone ad hominem and accuse them of having the wrong psychological motivations...
This is exactly what makes me, sometimes, want to never touch another political website.

Posted by: PCL at June 8, 2003 06:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to correct a misimpression. Henley wasn't even talking about the NYT in that quote. He was answering my response to one of his rants on Iraq. Henley's rant in turn was based on stories from MSNBC and the Washington Post.

You can find my initial remarks here. Caution: it's a long piece, and the relevant parts are some way down. My riposte to the passage quoted by CalPundit can be found in a subsequent post, here.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan at June 8, 2003 06:02 AM | PERMALINK

See, it is this complete disconnect with reality that I don't understand. Kevin on the far left 10%?

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2003 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

"He refers to 15%, but do we think he really means anything under, say, 90%?"

That's a question only "we" can answer.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer at June 8, 2003 06:53 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, if we only accepted Richard Aubrey's counseling we'd be doing fine, even though it would still go without saying that everything we say is false.

To me the scariest people on the right -- except for the neo-Nazis and the anti-abortion terrorists, of course -- are the Armageddon Christians who support Israel so that the end of the world will come quicker. Not that I'm really worried that the seven-headed dragon will rise from the sea, but in my opinion people who think that way shouldn't be part of the foreign policy debate. (Does this make me an anti-Christian bigot?)

A point I have to keep making is that right-wingers have killed a lot of people in the last twenty years, and the "eco-terrorists" and anti-globalists have killed exactly NONE. No matter how much you see them on TV, how weird they look, and no matter how much you hate them, they aren't killing people. (You can name Kaczynski if you want, but he was on the record as hating feminists and radicals -- an environmentalist Rush Limbaugh.)

My guess is that Aubrey does live in the TV reality, which is indeed full of frightening leftists.

Posted by: zizka at June 8, 2003 09:03 AM | PERMALINK

The links I provided above seem not to work. Here are the URLs:
Original post:

Sorry about the confusion. I'm new to MT (as you can tell from those archive #s), and I haven't used comment boards very much.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan at June 8, 2003 09:06 AM | PERMALINK

There's a good post at about the NY Times.

Posted by: casadelogo at June 8, 2003 09:19 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Aubrey subtext puncturing:

I was going to make a substantive argument to refute Kevin's statement, but then I realized that I couldn't. So I'll string together a few nonsensical rants about "leftists," equate Mr. Drum's squishy moderate Democratic politics with Lenin and Trotsky, and call it a day.

Posted by: MuseZack at June 8, 2003 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin might be squishy, or he might be something else, but he surely does want us to know how morally superior he is.
And the moral superiority quotient rises as the in-group gets smaller, hence the broadcast accusations of awfullness directed in about 359 degrees.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 8, 2003 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding newsmedia bias and partisanship

If polls of the biggest media sources, such as the big three TV networks, newsweekly magazines, and NYT/WP/LAT showed that over 80% of the reporters and editors vote democratic and lean left on hot button social issues such as abortion and gun control...

...why do I get the feeling you folks here bouncing around in a left-wing echo chamber would call such a phenomenom evidence of the newsmedia being 'centrist'?

I suppose the basic 50/50 split of power reflected in election results in America is due to right wing rigging of the vote, eh?

After twenty years of gagging on the media monopoly which preened with false claims of fairness and objectivity, what a liberating relief it was for me to hear voices of opposition spring up in talk radio, the internet, and cable television.

Now that the right and Republicans have an outlet to the national audience, it doesn't matter that the left still has a grip on the largest audience media powers, just the fact that the monopoly has broken is enough to carry the day. Free at last! Thank God!

Posted by: Brad at June 8, 2003 03:06 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, Richard, Gore got more votes than Bush. So we don't hate everybody. Kevin is probably more moderate than Bush, too.

Sorry if Kevin's moral superiority bothers you, you poor little victim. You might clean up your act instead of whining, though.

Brad, get involved in reality. Was the fraudulent coverage of the Clinton impeachment left-wing? What about the free ride that the cokehead AWOL candidate got while Gore was being chopped to pieces for supposed lies?

Abortion and gun control are centrist issues, Brad. Many Republicans take what you think of is the "left" position here.

Talk radio and TV talk shows aren't liberal, moderate, fair, balanced, or accurate. If you find relief in that, God bless your sorry ass.

Posted by: zizka at June 8, 2003 03:23 PM | PERMALINK


Thanks for living the sterotype and confirming every claim I made about the left wing mindset.

Posted by: Brad at June 8, 2003 03:38 PM | PERMALINK

Brad, it's like fishbarrel shooting.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 8, 2003 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

brad, i can't for the life of me understand why right-wingers think it's so all fired definitive to cite statistics about how newspaper reporters vote.

First, as memory serves, the stat is fairly bogus. It represents a very small sample.

Second, what kind of reductionist thinking is it that assumes, even if the statistic is true, that results in "liberal bias?"

If the people who grew up to become newspaper reporters and editors wanted to be activists - well, they'd have become activists.

If they wanted to be politicians or work for politicians - that's where they'd have directed their career path.

they became reporters and editors because they were interested in the news, and do their best, every day, in a highly demanding, charged, and difficult profession, to get the story.

they do lots of things wrong and foolishly and misguidedly, no question.

but if you want to prove that what they do is display "liberal bias," then you, like, actually have to show "liberal bias," not make silly extrapolations from incomplete data sets.

Truly showing "liberal bias" means that you can't just behave like the Bush administration on iraq and cherrypick your favorite anecdotes. It means you have to spend the time to read the thousands and thousands of words that even one newspaper publishes every week and subject them, in toto, to honest analysis.

if and when you do - and i've done this, to challenge conservative friends caught up with the "liberal bias" delusion - you'll discover that what kevin said in the original posting (and what taktile cited actual research about) is true: there's plenty wrong with newspaper coverage, but it's wrong in all directions.

people who insist that it's only "liberal" bias (as opposed, just to cite a few, to "conventional story" bias, "don't criticize your peers" bias, "protect your sources" bias, "on the one hand, on the other" bias, and, of course, "conservative" bias which is constantly present in the mere selection of stories every day) are telling us about themselves, not about the meida.

Posted by: howard at June 8, 2003 06:21 PM | PERMALINK

Howard, you have a good point.
It would be rock-solid if you could substitute "conservative" for every "liberal" and still believe your conclusion.
I doubt you could do it.
Anyway, the point is not activist reporters, it's the liberal mindset unable to discern that what it thinks is ordinary might not be.
The mindset which willingly attaches loaded adjectives to conservatives but not liberals. The mindset involved in coverage choice.
Some years ago, I talked to an editor at the Detroit Free Press. I said the problem was that journalism had a lot of aging flower children who thought of journalism as a tool for The Struggle.
His response was surprising. "Not any more".
Ellen Goodman made the same point about that time, but said the activist had gone elsewhere, writing books and so forth. No longer reporting.
The best journalism can say is that they aren't any longer doing just what they're accused of doing, although some will admit they did do it.
The next step is to be just a little suspicious that the aging flower children and their compatriots left a different newsroom behind them when they went to greener pastures.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 8, 2003 06:55 PM | PERMALINK


I doubt anything I could post here in the time and space limitations of CalPundit's comments section could convince you. But...

The single strongest and simplest evidence of media bias I could show is the wildly unfair coverage that the big threes, ABC/CBS/NBC, NYT/WP/LAT, Time/Newsweek/USNews have given the gun issue.

My personal experience has demonstrated to me how even a blatant hoax printed on the front page would not be retracted when I confronted a newspaper with the truth. When such deception falls right in line with the editorial page stance, of course the the paper was biased and agenda driven. And this is just one sample, albeit the worst, of many examples I have witnessed of bias.

Hell even TIme magazine has come right out and admitted they give biased agenda driven coverage to the gun issue.

Even Alterman who wrote the book 'What liberal media?', grudgingly admits the news profession is biased regarding social issues.

(the hoax story was the so-called 'Black-Rhino' ammo, which was a handgun bullet with the magical ability to not only penetrate body armor, but also expand explosively once inside the target)

Posted by: Brad at June 8, 2003 07:10 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think you're going to make much headway with the Black Rhino story, Brad.
Although liberals don't like journalists to actually lie, they make exceptions for good causes.
So either the journos tell the truth, or if they don't, that's okay, and since it's okay, it's the same as telling the truth, which means they always tell the truth.
Unless they say something which is true that doesn't help the liberals.
It is interesting how much effort went into getting the NYT to retract the story about the Arctic Ocean melting in the summer for the first time in fifty million years, or the completely bogus Alaska temperature records.
As the guru of global warming, Steven Schneider, said, when it comes to imparting information, he has to choose between accuracy and impact and so he goes with impact.
Think he's alone?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 8, 2003 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

Brad and Richard, I'll let you guys be the last ones standing. I don't see that you've made any points, though. You're just repeating cliches that were refuted some time ago.

I don't know dick about black Rhino. so maybe you're right about that one. It doesn't even seem to be a big issue to the other trolls, because they never bring it up.

Posted by: zizka at June 8, 2003 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Brad/Richard - you both seem saner than the typical Times-bashers, but unfortunately, you're still both playing by Bush rules - cherrypicking the stories you love best.

Let me pretend for a moment (and that's what it is) that I accept your examples, although richard, that's not how I remember the arctic story (i remember andy doing conniptions and backflips to prove that in some areas of the arctic, temperatures weren't as bad as the times claimed) and brad, i honestly don't know the "black rhino" story.

but let's accept them.

so what?

My challenge to you is that if you want to prove "liberal bias," you've got to do the sustained analysis of the total newspaper, not tell me about a couple of stories.

i'll see your two stories without even having to think about it: the times still has never apologized and/or retracted the inept reportage of jeff gerth on whitewhater, and has never apologized and/or retracted its part in the slime-Al-Gore-by-telling-false-stories program.

And that doesn't prove anything either, other than two can play at the cherrypicking game.

you do raise two potentially more significant issues. The first is Eric Alterman. let's dispose of that quickly. i personally disagree with him on that point, but i'll tell you what: i'll concede that point if you'll concede everything else that alterman wrote.

the second is the ever-elusive, always popular "it's a matter of mindset." I appreciate that human beings assign, write, and edit the news, as well as make choices about where to place a story, how long the story should be, whether a photo should run with it, what kind of follow-up, and that therefore, being only human, they will make choices that, ultimately, are based upon their impression of what the best choice is, not upon some empirical standard.

it's a long way from there to saying that every choice reflects a "liberal" bias. I am a person of the left, and believe me, i have every bit as long a list of complaints about those choices and the mindset of those who make them as you do, simply from a differing perspective.

that's why kevin's original post is correct.

P.S. the detroit free press story, richard, i'm afraid is meaningless, and the "unfair adjectives" story has been debunked, so we won't waste any more time on them, ok?

Posted by: howard at June 8, 2003 10:17 PM | PERMALINK


As for 'cherrypicking', I already told you about the limitations of this forum. Bad form for you to cherrypick my post, while accusing me of cherrypicking this issue.

I've heard that Alterman seemed so far out that he even made Jon Stewart roll his eyes. If you truly believe that even Alterman doesn't go far enough for you, I'm confident no amount of evidence from me will convince you of anything. So this is my last post to you on this matter.

I will credit you with some more civility than is typical from the left end of the web. What does it say though that I know about Alterman and his book, but the 'Black Rhino' hoax is a mystery to you. If you care to look, google 'Black Rhino ammo', it's easy to find.

Posted by: Brad at June 8, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Howard, you keep missing the point. First, the Detroit story is interesting because an editor said we self-censor, we do it deliberately and here's why. The "why" is part of the issue.
The mindset question is also forked. You said "every", which I never said. We don't need "every". But there is a number which is considerably more than "sufficient".
I don't know if Google is any good for this, but conservatives have used Lexis-Nexis for years to find out the ratio of "far left" and "far right" in newspapers referring to liberals and conservatives, and a good many other combinations of adjectives and usually find anywhere from three to one to ten to one more "far" characterizations, and the same with other diagnostic adjectival constructions. From which one can conclude that the writer is so far left on the spectrum that there are three to ten times as many positions to his right as to his left and you can't get any further left this side of Mao and look "far" to the writer, while anything right of, say, Kevin seems astronomically distant to the right. As I say, the conservatives seem to be able to find this in the general news (exclude talk radio, it's not the issue) and liberals have not, to my knowledge, done the same. Perhaps they haven't thought of it or perhaps they tried and the results weren't good.
As to mindset, sure. I'd like to hear you look at a bunch of reporters and editors who are ex-grunts, Young Republicans, Southern Baptists, and claim it makes little difference. Sure.
The NYT screwed the pooch regarding the far north twice. Once is the hysteria about the newly-melted Arctic Ocean ice cap in the summer, which they retracted entire. The other was making up numbers for Alaska, which they retracted, under pressure, to replace them with a cherry-picked period not representative of the actual measurements.
There may be some other reason than a conscious desire to advance an agenda by adding some data that are "helpful" although false, or there may be a propensity to believe without checking when the data are "helpful". What do you think it is?
I would caution people about thinking that a paper said something when it's really Jay Leno exaggerating what the paper said. I refer here to the Love Canal and the internet stuff people said about Gore.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 9, 2003 05:44 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Aubrey says "there are a number" of "liberals" who will say anything so long as it supports their cause, but do we think he really means anything under, say, 99.99999 of all people who disagree with him about anything?

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer at June 9, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK

The Times feels a bit soulless to me, and it has some deeply significant blind spots (US foreign policy errors, for one). That is why I'll say that the UK Independent is the world's best English-language newspaper these days, even if the NYT has greater newsgathering capacities, as I'm sure it does.

Posted by: John Isbell at June 9, 2003 07:25 AM | PERMALINK

Brad, no, really, Jon Stewart "rolled" his eyes, you've heard? well, that settles everything, doesn't it?

or maybe it doesn't, and maybe second-hand anecdotal evidence doesn't do a thing to prove your case, limitations of the forum or not.

richard, i don't have time to dig into it right now (maybe later today?), but the "far left/far right" story has long been debunked. Among the problems with that story is that if conservative x is quoted as saying "they always call us far right," then amazingly enough, this shows up as a count for "far right."

but as i'm sure you will acknowledge, this doesn't suggest bias at all, it suggest whining self-pity.

or perhaps you recall that ann coulter tried this very trick in her book. among the "far right" references that she came up with, it turned out, was a knick scoring a 3-pointer from the "far right" corner. (she also cheated on her count and pulled a number of the other dishonesties that are the hallmark of her book.)

in fact, serious studies (that is, studies that exclude silly cases like the two i just cited) find that the media are quite equal in their use of terms like "far left" and "far right."

as i say, i don't have time now, but i'll try and find them and post them here later, if only in the hopes that you'll abandon this line of argument and try to find some better ones to prove bias.

now, your next step in the mindset question is a mighty dangerous one. next thing you know, richard, you'll be supporting the university of michigan on its admission policies. after all, by your analysis, social and economic backgrounds are definitive and cannot possibly be overcome. is this really what you mean?

the detroit story is still meaningless. yes, i agree, people make decisions. gosh, that's a terrible, horrible, thing isn't it? a meaningful story would be a carefully done, controlled study of managing editors across the country. as an anecdote, your tale is of as much value as brad's having heard that jon stewart rolled his eyes at eric alterman.

as for your parting comment, i can't figure it out. if you'd like to know what the media really said, massively dishonestly, about gore, feel free to visit the daily howler site and sarch through the archives. it's covered quite definitively and quite accurately.

Posted by: howard at June 9, 2003 07:47 AM | PERMALINK

The plural of anecdote is not data.
However, the probability theory tells us that what is most likely to happen is what is most likely to happen.
If I enounter something, it is the most likely thing to have happened, not likely to be an unlikely thing.
Pretty simple.
So if I hear something from an editor, I am statistically correct in presuming it's common, not uncommon.
Now, of course, it could be one of those one-per-million cases. But that's not likely.
However, if it seems supported by other issues, perhaps it's one of those more likely items.
As to U-Mich and their admissions policies, I don't see where overcoming mindsets is the issue. I think it's designed to confirm mindsets (blacks can't make it without help, that sort of thing).
If folks with a liberal mindset can overcome in order to be fair journalists, so can those with a conservative mindset, a conclusion few liberals would join.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 9, 2003 08:22 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:

"Of course it does, Jim. I've come to realize that the Times isn't really a newspaper at all, it's the perfect political Rorschach test: just ask someone to read a copy, note down what they mumble irritably about, and then take the mirror image. That's their political leaning."

Interesting. I've always said the same thing about The New Republic. The Right thinks that TNR is the Left's answer to The National Review. The Left thinks that TNR is just The National Review with a better arts section. Somewhat indicative of what's happened to our politcal culture in the last few decades - that people on both sides of the aisle now find it difficult to accept the possibility of an opinion journal that's "conservative" on most foreign policy issues, "moderate" on most bread-and-butter domestic policy issues, and "liberal" on most cultural issues.

Posted by: sd at June 9, 2003 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

The New York Times -- the Sunday Magazine has drifted definitively to the right, perhaps because of the need to keep those Ralph Lauren ads. I realize "anecdote is not data," but the NYTM has run many articles in the last few years favoring Bushite foreign policy (neo-colonialism). Most recently it featured a major aticle by Niall Ferguson (neocon British historian who thinks US ought to revive the British Empire). The NYT recently adopted the odious Washington Post habit of covering leftist causes in the Style section -- an article about leftist pamphlet publishing appeared in the NYT 6/8 Styles section.

As for Tne New Republic, on social issues they are not leftist. Liberal but not left. Summary rejection and ridicule of academic leftist phenomena such as queer theory (Judith Butler et al.).

If anything the Los Angeles Times is now more leftist than the New York Times.

Posted by: sara at June 9, 2003 06:19 PM | PERMALINK

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg pretty effectively shot down some of the liberal bias claims here:

Posted by: Stanton at June 10, 2003 05:44 AM | PERMALINK

thank you, stanton - that was the very set of references that I referred to earlier in my exchanges with richard and brad. (given that it's now several days later, i think we'll give the remainder of our back-and-forth a rest.)

Posted by: howard at June 10, 2003 05:52 PM | PERMALINK

The NY Times is NOT biased at all! The people that run the paper and the writers that do the stories are NOT leftists but Independents who just report the News as it is. Therefore, there can be no "bias." Right wingers are just jealous the paper is so successful and reaches a world wide audience and gives them all the news that's fit to print.



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