The New York Times and the Hive Mind

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Arthur Brisbane was the Public Editor (ombudsman) for The New York Times.  In his last column he made this observation:


I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.       

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.       

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

In the same column Brisbane made the startling revelations that fire burns and water is wet.  Not really, but that would be on the same level of stating the bloody obvious.

This timid acknowledgement that the The New York Times is as objective as the old Pravda, drew this rebuke from Jill Abramson, the Executive Editor for the Old Gray Lady:

“In our newsroom we are always conscious that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of the country or world. I disagree with Mr. Brisbane’s sweeping conclusions,” Abramson told POLITICO Saturday night.

“I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” she continued. “But I also often quote, including in talks with Mr. Brisbane, another executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, who wanted to be remembered for keeping ‘the paper straight.’ That’s essential.

The bias of the mainstream media is annoying to me.  However, what is offensive is the pretended objectivity.  That is an insult to my intelligence, and my eyes.

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  1. The man possesses a minuscule grasp of the obvious.

    The so-called media is in the tank for the destructive liberal agenda and the leader of the choom gang.

  2. This reminds me of panel that featured the PBS director and the head honcho of HBO among others. At one point they talked about the failure of Air America, the leftist version of right-wing radio. The HBO guy remarked that it failed because there was already left-wing media that was completely free: PBS and NPR. The PBS director promptly bleated out: “But we aren’t biased!” and the HBO director just said, “Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”

  3. I am sure that in the hive mind of the New York Slimes, they consider themselves to be objective. Walter Duranty (no famine in Ukraine in the 1930s) and Herbert Mathews (late 1950s Fidel Castro apologist) are more than enough evidence that the Slimes has been biased for decades.

  4. “… I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so…”

    -What planet is this boy on?

  5. Don’t sell this story short. It’s a big deal. For a critique of the Times’ bias to be printed by the Times, that’s unusual. It also can become a point of reference for anyone arguing about media bias in general. But most importantly, I think the description of the dynamis of establishment bias was perfect. This article spells out exactly how it happens and exactly why it remains undiagnosable to those who do it. Good for Brisbane.

  6. Well, duh! Sorry for the silly response, but the media in general have their causes and pet issues. Whichever side one falls on,politically, may drive whether they cease to view the media outlet or think its unbiased..that’s read, my bias is unbiased.

  7. Ms. Abramson doth protest too much. The New York Times has endorsed the Democratic nominee for President 13 straight times. This November it will be 14.
    In 2006, the New York Times endorsed every single Democratic candidate for Congress in the tri-state area; no Republicans. That’s not “keeping the paper straight”.
    Abe Rosenthal did indeed, despite his progressive leanings, have some form of journalistic inegrity – so much that some thought he might have personally favored Ronald Reagan (maybe he just liked peace and prosperity). But nobody confuses A.M. Rosenthal with his late father. The paper – especially it’s opinion page – is becoming a predictible yawn that echoes what its base wants to hear. To those seeking actual intellectual enlightenment, look elsewhere. The Washington Post, while still a bit left of center, does a far better job of reflecting a range of public opinion.

  8. It’s been thus since the 1920’s. the NYT motto is “All the news that’s fit to print with a pinkish tint.”

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