Mar
17
2009

NYT, WaPo 'Reticent' on NIC Uproar

As "the American foreign policy community worked itself into something resembling a frenzy over the appointment of Charles W. 'Chas' Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council"–because "at stake was, if not a direct policy battle of huge consequence, a real struggle over the range of viewpoints that will be permitted in an official government position"–Greg Marx says (CJR.org, 3/13/09) that "if you get your news from the New York Times, you were totally oblivious to this story as it unfolded":

To recap: On February 19, Laura Rozen reported on Foreign Policy's website that Freeman, who is known for his realist foreign policy views and colorful character, had been appointed by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to head the NIC. Within hours, Steve Rosen, formerly of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had sounded the alarm on the grounds that Freeman is too sympathetic to Saudi Arabia and too hostile to Israel. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, Freeman's critics pressed their case, adding to the complaints about his views on the Middle East allegations that he is unduly accommodating to China's leadership. Along the way, an inspector general began an investigation of Freeman's financial ties to foreign governments, and Freeman's supporters launched a counteroffensive. And, on Tuesday, as the campaign against him was gaining traction on Capitol Hill, Freeman withdrew from the position, blasting the "Israel Lobby" on his way out the door.

That's a lot of information, almost all of it from blogs or other Web publications. The Times did not address the controversy once until after Freeman withdrew, publishing a brief article by Mark Mazzetti in Wednesday's paper, and a front-page follow-up by Mazzetti and Helene Cooper on Thursday. The reticence of major newspapers–and especially the Times–about the story while it was unfolding was noticed, and criticized, by both pro- and anti-Freeman advocates.

Marx additionally notes that the Washington Post, being "the Times's big legacy-media competition on foreign policy stories, was also slow to cover the story, though it jumped in a day earlier than the Times–i.e., before Freeman withdrew."