Dec
18
2009

Ideology Versus Pragmatism–Again

Once again, the New York Times is setting up a false debate over healthcare policy, contrasting White House-style "pragmatism" with left-wing "ideology." The lead of Sheryl Gay Stolberg's piece today (12/18/09): In the great healthcare debate of 2009, President Obama has cast himself as a cold-eyed pragmatist, willing to compromise in exchange for votes. Now ideology — an uprising on the Democratic left — is smacking the pragmatic president in the face. In this worldview, "ideologues" are those who push for reforms–including single-payer–that they believe will lower costs and offer more comprehensive coverage. "Pragmatists," meanwhile, are moving in the opposite […]

Dec
15
2009

Can't She Be a Little Nicer, Though?

On Sunday (12/13/09), the New York Times Book Review offered a brief take on Malalai Joya's A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Times reviewer Marc Tracy seemed to like the book OK, with a few notable caveats: Joya's arguments, we're told, "have earned the plaudits of people like Noam Chomsky, [and] are sometimes extreme, simplistic and misguided, but they are rarely without a grain of truth." It's hard to tell what the "grain of truth" might be, but throwing Chomsky's name into the mix seems to be a sign to […]

Dec
14
2009

Calling Science 'the Left' Is Not Advocating for Science

New York Times' climate change reporter Andrew Revkin is taking a buyout from his employer after a tough year, the Columbia Journalism Review's website (12/14/09) reports. Revkin, whom CJR's Christine Russell describes as "one of the most influential and respected reporters on the environment," says that 2009 "has been the hardest year Iâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ve experienced on this beat"–in part because Revkin has increasingly found himself–and his paperâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s coverage–the target of critics on both the right and the left, particularly in the often vitriolic blogosphere. He described himself as "an advocate for scientific reality," not for either side of the debate. "The […]

Nov
24
2009

Illegally Obtained Info Is a Big Scoop–or a Non-Story

The New York Times' reporter on the climate beat, Andrew Revkin, had a front-page story this weekend (11/20/09) detailing the contents of climate scientists' private emails discussing global warming. Predictably, the emails are being taken out of context by climate change deniers–but more interesting to me is the fact that the focus is on the content of the emails, not on the fact that they were illegally obtained. That's not the way corporate media handled the illegally taped cell phone call between Newt Gingrich, John Boehner and other Republican congressmembers in which Gingrich violated the terms of a ethics sanction […]

Nov
23
2009

NYT Non-News Story Says It's Time to Tighten Belts

The New York Times (11/23/09) has an editorial on its front page today disguised as a news story. Appearing under the headline "Federal Government Faces Balloon in Debt Payments," Times business reporter Edmund Andrews makes an impassioned plea for the neo-Hooverist economics popular in corporate media: Claiming that "the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners in default on their mortgages," Andrews maintains that "there is little doubt that the United States' long-term budget crisis is becoming too big to postpone." There's not a lot of news in this ostensible news article; it […]

Nov
23
2009

The Unimaginably Awful Japanese Media

The New York Times (11/21/09) describes Japan's elite "press clubs" as a century-old, cartel-like arrangement in which reporters from major news media outlets are stationed inside government offices and enjoy close, constant access to officials. The system has long been criticized as antidemocratic by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels more accountable to its official sources than to the public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the government, the critics say, the news media fail to serve as an effective check on authority. The mind reels.

Nov
19
2009

NYT Charts the Choices of Selfless Politicians

The remarkable ability to engage in in-depth discussion of lawmakers' opposition to healthcare reform efforts without ever mentioning the massive contributions such lawmakers tend to receive from the healthcare industry is not confined to the Washington Post–as Dan Ward noted in his Extra! piece (11/09). Another recent example of the phenomenon was provided by the New York Times, which ran a piece (11/18/09) on three Democratic senators –Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas–who may help filibuster the reform bill to death. The piece, by Carl Hulse, informs us that the three "have all […]

Nov
16
2009

Torture Still Qualified at NY Times

New York Times on the pending trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed ( 11/15/09–emphasis added): Mr. Mohammed's initial defiance toward his captors set off an interrogation plan that would turn him into the central figure in the roiling debate over the C.I.A's interrogation methods. He was subjected 183 times to the near-drowning technique called waterboarding, treatment that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has called torture. But advocates of the C.I.A's methods, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have said that the interrogation methods produced a trove of information that helped dismantle Al-Qaeda and disrupt potential terrorism attacks. Apparently Holder's views […]

Nov
11
2009

NYT on 'Pragmatic' Democrats

The headline and lead of a New York Times piece today: Trick for Democrats Is Juggling Ideology and Pragmatism By ADAM NAGOURNEY and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN WASHINGTON — Democrats have displayed a striking degree of pragmatism in seeking to push the health care bill through Congress, embracing or rejecting ideological considerations as needed to keep the legislation moving. By "ideology," the Times means policy ideas that are popular with voters and thatwould be more likely to reduce the costs of the healthcare system andcover more people(single-payer, a truly robust public plan). By "pragmatism," they mean the things that are less […]

Nov
06
2009

David Brooks' Special Suburbanites

In his New York Times column, David Brooks cheers the rise of suburban independent voters in this week's midterms elections, crediting them with Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia. Brooks has made a career out of singing thepraises of suburban Americans,all the while suggestingthat they are somewhat ignored. While liberals and conservatives have their own media machines and think tanks, Brooks writes: Independents, who are the largest group in the electorate, don't have any of this. They don't have institutional affiliations. They don't look to certain activist lobbies for guidance. There aren't many commentators who come from an independent […]

Nov
03
2009

One Reporter's Iraq War Lessons

On November 1, New York Times reporter Alissa Rubin has a look back at her experience as a war correspondent in Iraq. It's mostly interesting, though when she gets to the part where she draws the big lessons, things turn for the worse: In my five years in Iraq, all that I wanted to believe in was gunned down. Sunnis and Shiites each committed horrific crimes, and the Kurds, whose modern-looking cities and Western ways seemed at first so familiar, turned out to be capable of their own brutality. The Americans, too, did their share of violence, and among the […]

Nov
02
2009

Comparing Fox and CNN Through a Funhouse Mirror

Once you've given up trying to defend the idea that Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" slogan can be understood as anything other than irony, the fallback position is generally that everyone else is just as biased. Or as the headline over John Harwood's piece in the New York Times (11/2/09) puts it, "If Fox Is Partisan, It Is Not Alone." To back up this assertion, Harwood–who's the chief Washington correspondent for CNBC, and host of the New York Times Special Edition on MSNBC–relies on surveys by Scarborough Research that asked about the partisan identification of the audiences of cable channels. […]

Oct
23
2009

Fox's Flawed Football Analogy

The White House's beef with Fox News Channel continues, as do the right-wing cable channel's bizarre attempts to defend their journalistic integrity. Take this example from today's New York Times (10/22/09). Obviously the White House is most offended by the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck; this is unfair, according to Fox: But Michael Clemente, senior vice president for news and editorial programming at Fox, said the White House was conflating the networkâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s commentary with its news coverage. That, Mr. Clemente said, "would be like Fox News blaming the White House senior staff for the Washington Redskins' losing record." […]