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Or so Brisbane’s readers seem to imagine. In reality, reporters owe their authority precisely to the expectation that they adhere to an ethos of impartiality. Jill Abramson, who as Times executive editor oversees the paper’s news coverage, seems to grasp this point. As she writes in a response to Brisbane, which he included in his second post:
We have to be careful that fact-checking is fair and impartial, and doesn’t veer into tendentiousness. Some voices crying out for “facts” really only want to hear their own version of the facts.
Tendentiousness is a synonym for bias, a shortcoming of which the Times’s news pages have often been accused, including in this column. But Brisbane has stood the question of political bias on its head. What they’re debating at the Times is not whether the paper is biased, or how it can become less biased, but whether it is biased enough.
And although Abramson ultimately answers in the negative, the overall tone of her reply to Brisbane is defensive. “The kind of rigorous fact-checking and truth-testing you describe is a fundamental part of our job as journalists,” she insists. “We routinely have a team or reporters fact-checking debate assertions in something close to real time.” As an example of the Times’s “providing facts to challenge false or misleading assertions,” she notes that “we constantly point out the scientific consensus on climate change.”
Traveling in politically conservative circles in New York, I often run into people who tell me they’ve canceled their Times subscription, or are holding out from doing so only for the crossword puzzle or the food section, because they’re so fed up with its liberal slant. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of the Wall Street Journal, a Times competitor, and a shareholder in the Journal’s parent, News Corp. Thus such stories never fail to brighten my day.)
Even though self-described conservatives make up 40 percent of America’s population in Gallup’s latest survey, their defection is probably not a threat to the Times’s survival. That percentage, after all, is far lower in New York and similar urban areas that are the Times’s target audience.
But when Abramson observes that “some voices crying out for ‘facts’ really only want to hear their own version of the facts,” she perhaps unwittingly identifies the threat that the narrowing of the Times’s readership poses to the quality of the paper’s journalism. Those voices, after all, belong to the Times’s customers. They want the reporters who work for Abramson to be less disciplined about keeping their opinions to themselves. Abramson has reason to be defensive. Not only is her paper biased, it is under commercial pressure to become more biased.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?