The following piece was produced by HuffPost's OffTheBus.
If a citizen chose to use the New York Times as its source for learning about whether or not to support Governor Romney, she would be disappointed.
A review of the eight major Romney stories featured on the New York Times candidate page, shows quickly that none include an examination of his tenure as Governor. Of two deep biographical sketches, one focuses on the Olympics, the other on his youth. Of the six other stories, two are about campaign financing and Romney's own giving, two about gay rights, and two about religion. Of the 90 stories tagged "Mitt Romney," in the last 6 months, the vast majority are about campaign strategy, fundraising, and image. Much of the reporting is excellent; it is simply excellent about things that citizens do not need to know.
A survey of New York Times coverage found no stories in the last 12 months that delve into what Romney actually achieved, and/or failed to achieve, as governor.
On the featured timeline of his career, there are only two mentions of actions Romney took in his years as Governor; on July 25, 2005, he vetoed a bill that would expand access to the morning after pill; on April 6, 2006, he signed a health care bill.
There are other references to Romney's record scattered throughout the New York Times, but a citizen seeking to use it as a resource for voting would not be well served.
For example, there is a mention of his record in an article comparing the candidates on energy, a mention of a law he passed regarding illegal immigrants in an article about immigration laws, and several mentions of the health care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts. While the health care plan is important, it can hardly be the only thing he did as Governor.
The New York Times, with a large, excellent, political reporting staff, has been unable to answer the question that most citizens considering him would like to know: "What did Mitt Romney do as governor?"
These are the articles the New York Times provides as highlights of its Romney coverage:
- Romney's Tone on Gay Rights Is Seen as Shift By MICHAEL LUO September 8, 2007
- Romney's Fortunes Tied to Business Riches By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK June 4, 2007
- Romney Works to Put Skeptics' Doubts to Rest By MICHAEL LUO May 11, 2007
- In Romney's Bid, His Wallet Opens to the Right By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK March 11, 2007
- Mormon Candidate Braces for Religion as Issue By ADAM NAGOURNEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN February 8, 2007
- Romney's Mixed Views on Gay Rights and Marriage Rile Conservatives By ADAM NAGOURNEY and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK December 6, 2006
One of the most basic responsibilities of newspaper reporting--especially political reporting--is providing citizens information they can use to make responsible decisions. If they cannot get this from one of the best newspapers in the world, what news outlet should they go to to find it? Wikipedia and unpaid media outlets can pull together disparate information, but we depend upon reporters to unearth it in the first place.
Romney was selected for examination because governors' actions are not as easy to report on as Senate votes; some in-depth interviews and reporting are required, and because Romney has been a featured and followed candidate for over a year, so there has been plenty of time to dig into his record.
Hopefully this has simply been an oversight on the part of the Times. This survey raises the possibility, however, that reporters believe citizens could never make decisions on sensible grounds (like someone's record), and so they have decided that they no longer carry this responsibility -- a move that hints at the possibility members of the fourth estate have given up on democracy.