Monday, July 26, 2004
Okent's admission: Someone inside the New York Times building has finally put in print what practically everyone on Earth already knew. (Dan Rather excepted.) Times public editor Daniel Okrent comes clean in Sunday's column.
Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?
[O]F course it is.
The fattest file on my hard drive is jammed with letters from the disappointed, the dismayed and the irate who find in this newspaper a liberal bias that infects not just political coverage but a range of issues from abortion to zoology to the appointment of an admitted Democrat to be its watchdog. (That would be me.) By contrast, readers who attack The Times from the left - and there are plenty - generally confine their complaints to the paper's coverage of electoral politics and foreign policy.
I'll get to the politics-and-policy issues this fall (I want to watch the campaign coverage before I conclude anything), but for now my concern is the flammable stuff that ignites the right. These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed.
This admission is refreshing and surprising. It's not the sort of thing you expect any journalist to admit to. There's a deep denial among journalists that their personal beliefs do not influence their reporting and coverage decisions. They think, and they make an effort, to insulate their politics -- and it seldom works.
However, what's most troubling about Okrent's piece is the fact that he believes he needs to wait and see if the liberal bias that he admits pervades "social issues" (Are gun control and environmental regulation social issues?) also affects its political coverage.
How can it not? Are Times editors just lazy when they try to scrub bias from "social" stories and much more dedicated when they try to overcome their natural inclinations in political stories?
Come November, it should be no surprise when Okrent announces that the Times political coverage leans to the left.