Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's Official -- The Times is Off the Pedestal

Journalism prof and blogger Jay Rosen's widely followed Pressthink column expresses what has been general knowledge for a long time -- that the New York Times is no longer the nation's leading newspaper.

He pegs a lot -- too much, I think -- on the Judith Miller imbroglio, as well as her previous reporting on WMDs. He is correct, however, in noting that the Paul Krugman correction mess is also a factor.

The problem is that Rosen's analysis is incomplete. The Krugman Affair is just the tip of the iceburg. What has hurt the paper's credibility is more than just its arrogant refusal to correct errors and its mishandling of the Miller affair. The major reason is its open ideological bias. Or as Dan Okrent famously put it: "Is the Times a liberal newspaper? Of course it is." His use of "liberal," however, is a too-mild reference to the Times's hard-left agenda, particularly on the editorial page.

Ironically, though Miller's WMD reporting proved wrong, the fact that she pursued that story and oil-for-food actually was positive, in that it countered the paper's otherwise leftward tilt. But by failing to come up with the goods on WMDs, and grandstanding her way into jail, Miller just made the Times a whipping boy for the left at the same time that it tilts its coverage in that direction.

There's a word for that. It's called "dumb." As I have indicated in the past, the Times is all too often stupid in its handling of controversies, and at the same time -- as the recent Gail Collins letter to readers indicates--presumes that its readers are morons.

Rosen's analaysis is also flawed in that he rank-orders newspapers, now putting the Washington Post on the top. Personally I would put the Wall Street Journal at the top of the heap. But the point is not who's first, but that the Times just ain't there -- and that it used to be.

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