October 17, 2004


The NYT's ombudsman cedes his column space today to critics from the left-of-center (a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia) and hard right (a lawyer who wrote a book about how the Times is biased), to talk about whether the Times demonstrates a bias in its campaign coverage.

The argument from the left-of-center guy? The Times holds Kerry to a higher standard, and often works to find slightly incorrect or misleading statements by Kerry to contrast with blatant falsehoods made, whether deliberate or not, by the Bush administration. That is, the Times has a slight bias against John Kerry in that it is slightly biased in favor of his opponent.

Seems pretty straightforward.

The argument from the hard-right guy? The Times' articles on social issues, eg, the status of gay Americans, taken as a whole, present the point of view of most mainstream Americans, and neglect that of the minority radical right, eg, outright homophobes. (My paraphrase, not his.) This is a campaign issue, and hence the Times is biased against Bush. Note that the question at hand, dealing with campaign coverage, is never addressed. Also, two Republican party hacks who happen to have regular Op-Ed spaces in the Times have alternate readings of the Iraqi WMD inspectors' report that have been neglected.

This is the same sort of shit movement conservatives have been spouting about the media for forty years. It's where their emphasis on `balance', as opposed to objectivity or a pursuit of truth, came from: the mainstream media don't present the views of an extreme minority of Americans, so there's a lack of balance. The solution is to waste time giving everyone with a unique viewpoint the chance to rave as incoherently as they wish, while neglecting the data that might support (and, more often, undermine) those views.

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