Friday, October 14, 2005
No bias?: Over at Mediacrity, a letter from New York Times public editor Byron Calame regarding the curious silence on Chuckaquiddick -- and the first reporting of it buried in a horse race story.
Dear XXX: The editors said the story fell between the cracks, with one part of the paper assuming another part of the paper was checking on the situation. The Times is a big place and that can happen.
It is a subject that I am watching over the longer term. I feel there also may have been a reluctance to spend time on a story that had been broken by another publication. If this unconfirmed hunch is correct, that is not an appropriate response.
I didn't find any evidence of political bias. I don't have any special problem with the level of detail in story The Times ran.
The New York Times
I ripped into the Times' first (and only) article on the story last week. But Calame doesn't see any political bias. How could we figure out what political bias looks like in this sort of case?
Well, no recent scandal is a perfect fit, but the one surrounding my own congressman, the corrupt Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his home sale. That story was broken by the San Diego Union-Tribune on June 12. A search of the Times archive shows that the first mention of Cunningham's troubles is buried in a story about the House ethics committee and Tom DeLay three days after the story broke.
The first real story is really just a 270 word brief on June 21, nine days after the story broke. This brief used the issuance of a subpoena in the case as a news hook.
So, the Times didn't really jump on Cunningham, but he not exactly a prominent politician and he's 3,000 miles away from 42nd Street in New York. Sen. Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, is head of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee and a hometown boy.
The Union-Tribune has run dozens of stories on their hometown politician's woes in the months since the story broke. The Times, on the other hand, has still only run the one horserace story from last week.
Is the Times just not interested because Schumer is a prominent Democrat? Based on the totality of the evidence, I'd have to say that the answer is yes.