According to the Times own public editor, the MoveOn/Betray Us ad the Times ran on Monday, Sept. 10 has officially gone from being an ugly spectacle to a full on scandal of bad judgment, poor oversight and ideological favoritism.
Over at Atlantic.com, Andrew Sullivan writes that if the Times wants to do something about the body shot its rep has taken, it needs to fire someone.
Um, yes and no. The Times needs to fire someone, but not just anyone. It needs to give the sack to its own publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr.,
Sulzberger is part of "The Trust," the family that owns the controlling interest in the Times. "Young Arthur," as he's often called (or "Pinch" as he's also often called, but rarely to his face) was literally given control of the paper in 1992 by his daddy Arthur O. "Punch" Sulzberger. Since then, Pinch has presided over scandal after scandal -- Wen Ho Lee and Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg and Judy Miller (X2). His unwavering -- some would say blind -- defense of Miller in the Plame Affair was frankly a low point in American journalism. However, with a personal connection (read that as conflict of interest) to Miller he couldn't do otherwise. And on the scandal tip, it was little more than five weeks ago I wrote about the sordid Kurt Eichenwald mess.
Look, you can't cover the world the way the Times does and not make mistakes. But a misplaced punctuation mark or an inaccurately reported date is far different than a culture where sexed up reporting by media stars and high bias has become the norm.
But it's not just journalism that's suffered under Sulzberger's "leadership."
The paper's circulation continues to slide, with 1.12 million current readers, which is down 1.9% from last year. In the last five years its market share in the New York metro area has contracted from 29% to 24%. As of 2006 the Times still has got a grip on a massive 49.6% chunk of all national newspaper advertising, but even that's trending downward from 51.8% in 2004.
I have no doubt that Sulzberger means well, cares about his family's paper and wants to do good things. But this is the problem with institutionalized affirmative action (the "other" affirmative action conservatives never talk about when they're getting on government for insuring a level playing field). Much like, say, George Bush or Paris Hilton, Pinch has never had to truly work for anything in his life. As a result, he does not now have the leadership skills necessary to run a family business. No big deal if the family business is a corner deli. A real big deal if the family business is "all the news that's fit to print."