Mar
10
2009

NYT Steadfastly Lowers the Political Discourse

Jane Kim of CJR.org (3/9/09) quotes some of the reactions to a New York Times reporter asking Barack Obama if he is "a socialist as some people have suggested": Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post cracks that "the New York Times was THAT CLOSE to a journalistic coup!" and American Prospect's Ezra Klein wants to know, "Did they really think he would slip and admit that his stimulus plan was cadged from a footnote in Das Kapital?"

NYT reporter Peter Baker defended the question to Greg Sargent: "We were interested in exploring how a new president defines his political philosophy, something that has been the subject of intense debate." That would explain, to some extent, why the Times also chose to ask Obama: "Is there one word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?"

If it's one-word, yes/no answers that we're looking for, I've got a question that might elicit one: Is the discussion of whether Obama's economic policies signify a shift in our country's guiding political framework at all advanced by a simplistic "So, are ya?" query from the New York Times?

Admitting that "being direct can be effective sometimes," Kim still thinks "it's a shame that the Times chose to employ the Are you this? Are you that? questioning technique," because "in this case… the questions weren't nuanced enough to lift the discussion up and away from political ass-covering."