Sunday, September 18, 2005

'See No Evil' Bias at The Times

One of the most prolific yet easy to overlook forms of bias is just that -- overlooking. Not reporting. Or reporting and underplaying.

The New York Times, in both its news and editorial pages, habitually ignores or underplays stories that do not fit its preconceived notions and biases, especially the Sulzberger Indifference Template for coverage of the Middle East. The disastrous Gaza withdrawal is an excellent example of that.

Since Sept. 12, when Israel forces withdrew, Gaza has been the site of an orgy of looting and violence that has included wholesale violations of Israel's agreements with Egypt to police the border. In keeping with the Template, the Times has reacted by keeping its coverage to a bare minimum -- making it resemble, in its Gaza coverage, a small-town newspaper out in the sagebrush more than a major "newspaper of record."

Here's what the Times has run, and not run, over the past week of anarchy in Gaza:

1. Not a single editorial mentioning the wholesale violations of understandings between the parties.

2. Not a single critical news story.

3. A Sept. 14 story by Steven Erlanger -- "A Gaza Holiday: Looting, Chaos and Bargains in Egypt" -- that treated the whole thing like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. It celebrated the Palestinians' "new sense of freedom" and buried in the eighth paragraph the fact that Egypt was ignoring agreements in which the ink was still wet.

4. A succession of brief wire stories and references in other stories. After its sympathetic Sept. 14 story, the Times did not even bother to assign a staffer to the massive arms smuggling on the border, with all that it implies not just for the future of Gaza, but for peace in the Middle East.

Compare the above to the exhaustive coverage and staffing the Times commits to subjects that fit its ideological agenda, such as the last tiny detail of the Roberts nomination, or any evidence of "Jewish extremism" or its patented sob stories on the poor, poor Palestinians.

That's Times policy, folks: If it contradicts the Template, ignore it or underplay it.