In Clark Hoyt, the NYT has finally found the ombudsman they’re looking for: a man who (to maintain credibility) occasionally will gently chide the paper, but will not hold the paper to account for its extreme partisanship. It’s not working — the credibility part, that is — but that doesn’t really matter to a paper that didn’t even see the need for an ombudsman for the first 153 years of its 157-year history.
Yesterday Hoyt published his latest column, on an article about which he received complaints from liberals. (Via Hot Air.) Liberal complaints are the holy grail for a man in his position, because he can set them off against conservative ones to claim balance. But those complaints (that an article said a few positive things about Sarah Palin) are just the entry point to his thesis: it’s our fault. The Times isn’t biased, we just don’t like the news.
According to Hoyt, the NYT has made two mistakes in its election coverage this year: rejecting the McCain op-ed, and running a thinly-sourced hatchet job insinuating that McCain had an affair. As for the rest, Hoyt writes:
Bias is a tricky thing. None of us are objective. We like news that supports our views and dislike what may challenge them. We tend to pick apart each article, word by word, failing to remember that it is part of a river of information from which facts can be plucked to support many points of view. Perversely, we magnify what displeases us and minimize what we like.
That is true, to some extent, which is a reason why, on this blog, I don’t write much about media bias (other than quantitative analyses). Of course there is media bias in favor of liberals; it’s ridiculous to deny it, but it’s so subjective that it’s not fruitful to complain. Moreover, journalists are entitled to their biases; that’s what freedom of the press is really for.
Instead, I write about media failure, that is, inarguable misconduct by the media. Usually this takes the form of stories that are not merely biased but inaccurate or misleading: they either report outright falsehoods, or make allegations unsupported by their reporting, or carefully omit key facts. I also occasionally comment on other media malice and hypocrisy, when I think it’s inarguable.
Since I started this blog last March, the New York Times has provided my richest vein of media failure material. As just a sampling, during that time the NYT has: invented a McCain gaffe, called academic freedom for a Republican “inexplicable”, falsely accused McCain of corruption in regard to land-swap legislation, construed the Iraq surge as failed using carefully selected numbers (and refused to correct), confirmed an outlandish anti-American claim by Jeremiah Wright, given MoveOn.org a special deal on an ad attacking General Petraeus, misreported the corporate income tax in a manner favorable to Democrats, inaccurately reported that Sarah Palin belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party, inaccurately reported that Palin cut Special Olympics funding, promoted the Wasilla rape-kit lie, posted an incorrect transcript of the VP debate (unfavorably to Palin), misreported the substance of a charge that Obama interfered with Iraqi negotiations, and emailed schoolmates of McCain’s daughter looking for dirt on his wife.
All of this misconduct was hostile to Republicans. Can Hoyt cite comparable misconduct hostile to Democrats? (And would he want to?)
Sorry Mr. Hoyt, I don’t think it’s all in my head.