THE BLOG
09/04/2012 10:22 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2012

Spanked by an Insider

I have been an habitual, consistent, and addicted reader of the print edition of the New York Times since I was a 13-year-old freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School. I have considered it essential to my education, to my understanding of world affairs, to my enduring belief in the concept of an informed citizenry, and my desire to be up-to-date on global affairs.

Like living at close quarters with an old friend, I have observed the Old Gray Lady undergo many changes over the years. I have seen the wrinkles begin, and the valiant efforts to constantly rejuvenate its coverage and remain relevant. I have observed the obvious frustrations that befall any aging behemoth to keep up with the rapidly changing times.

I have observed as well, the not so subtle journalistic shift into a cause based bias that has changed the concept of, "All the News That's Fit to Print" to "All the News That Fits Our Bias to Print."

Any perceptive reader would, of course, have long ago recognized the insidious disappearance of objective neutrality in its coverage of politics, foreign affairs and related areas of reportage. That observation has not deterred me from subscribing to the Times, since I have acquired, by my habituation, a sensitive filter that strains out the bias and causes me to quickly shift my eye to other features in which the Times excels, and on which it is more challenging to affix a stamp of biased journalism.

That is why I am gratified to see the Times ombudsman, Arthur S. Brisbane in his swan song column finally state the obvious. Here is the heart of his comment.

"Across the paper's many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism -- for lack of a better term -- that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of the Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in the Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects."


However one feels about the support or non-support for these causes, these are the words of a committed and outraged whistleblower. It was, of course, written in his very last column as ombudsman, a parting blast, which had obviously been festering during his two years on the hot seat of having the thankless job, in effect, of criticizing his bosses and his colleagues' journalistic judgment.

For this farewell blow, he was roundly criticized by the paper's top editor, a counterattack that he surely expected. Whether or not it will interfere with his future career plans is yet to be seen.

Except for news junkies like myself, pointing out the obvious will hardly matter to its management since to change its current journalistic culture would be like trying to turn an aircraft carrier on a dime, but it does poke some holes into the Times' superior stance as the so-called newspaper of record. Surely, an honest and professional news record for the ages should require a complete compendium that explores and enlightens all sides of an issue unfolding in the public square.

This does not negate in any way the Times' absolute right to offer the opinions of its designated editorial board in the sections reserved for that purpose. But when those opinions bleed into the paper's journalistic reportage, it becomes an issue of concern to those readers who expect factual and unbiased neutrality in such reporting.

In the interest of transparency, let me state that I do not often agree with the editorial pronouncements of the Times and their op-ed columnists, and if I choose, as I often do, I can easily get counter arguments in other media outlets.

Perhaps, too, my alliance with the ombudsman's parting shot is pure snobbery on my part since I expect the Old Gray Lady to go about her daily life with decorum, dignity and fidelity that befits her station and is true to her slogan's commitment.

In other words, I would prefer her to act more honorably in the presentation of her views, and not obediently hide behind the private parlor of her editorial section, and present, in news columns, a more balanced, more deferential and civilized, less vitriolic and cocksure journalistic presentation; a stance that she had once maintained and guarded with great courage and commitment.

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