I'm coming to this realization late. I've heard the complaints for decades - the paper "of record" is biased. No one claimed that The New York Times was empty and ridiculous like Fox "news." But, here and there, smart people would pipe up about the Times' limited or biased coverage, say of Israel (I've heard both sides - that they are too "pro" and too critical), of pre-war Iraq conditions, of Brantley's opinion of a Broadway show. As a semi-detached observer, I recognized the paper's limitations, the inherently fallible nature of all writing and news coverage, while I continued my morning ritual of drinking coffee while turning the pages of the Times. Despite problems, as an engaged citizen, I considered it a basic responsibility to read and respect the The New York Times.
Then came the glorious age of Internet and digital media. The old fashioned newspaper lost its value and power as multiple sources of news emerged on line and democratized our morning rituals. Newspaper circulations fell. The substantial Boston Globe and Washington Post sold for fractions of their previous prices. But still, I held on to my paper - and my respect for it. Sure, as a scholar of literature I regularly rolled my eyes at some selections of reviewers for the Book Review. As a ballet-goer I decried a certain reviewer's disdain for American Ballet Theater. Yet, like an adolescent child who rebels against her parents yet ultimately looks to their authority, I retained a reverence for The Paper.
My fall came the other week. Perhaps I finally grew up.
You can all me biased - it's true that I've become involved in the New York City mayoral campaign as a supporter of Bill de Blasio. So I have a stake as I read and perhaps more knowledge than I have about foreign issues. Yet I consider my judgments carefully and aim to be a fair reader. Let's say I consider myself to be as "objective" as I expect my newspaper to be. That's why the break in the relationship hit hard. The curtain really was lifted and I now spin in the void of true adulthood - there is no definitive authority in the news. The Times, they have a changed.
The unrelenting and vacuous attacks after backing the wrong horse were just undignified. One front-page story focused on a reported refusal to engage in a spat about campaign colors as a reason to doubt de Blasio's leadership. What's going on? I asked. Before going to the polls, I used to look to the Times endorsements for guidance. But after I saw through the agenda and the unbridled exploitation of media power for an agenda, I had to admit that my "voting parents" are gone.
I guess, in the end, it's for the best. We all have to grow up some time. With the loss of this authority perhaps there's a gain in my own sense of authority. And while I am still reading the paper this morning, I may just rest my dripping coffee mug on certain particularly non-objective articles.