We were hardly surprised by the final column of New York Times departing public editor (as the Times refers to its in-house ombudsman) Arthur Brisbane, in which he acknowledged the paper harbors a liberal bias on public issues.
And this was not the first time a departing public editor leveled the charge against the Times; Daniel Okrent said much the same thing back in 2004.
What made Mr. Brisbane’s belated admission especially relevant is that we are in the midst of a presidential campaign and once again there is a perception that major media, with the Times in the lead, are in the tank for Mr. Obama.
Here is part of what Mr. Brisbane wrote:
I…noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by culture of like minds – a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism – for lack of a better term – that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
Though we’re not sure about Mr. Brisbane’s claim that the “lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance” (and even he will only say they “usually succeed in doing so”), his observation that certain stories “seem almost to erupt” in the newspaper is spot on.
Indeed, just a few months ago (“The Times Gang Tackles Romney,” May 25) we explored how over a period of four days the Times “unleashed an astounding four articles and an editorial slamming any discussion by Romney supporters of Mr. Obama’s two decade-long attendance at a church led by a virulent anti-white, anti-American minister on the grounds that such discussion raised the race and religion cards.”
We also noted that in contrast to its hands-off approach to Mr. Obama’s religious history, the paper had “no inhibitions about delving into the subject” of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism; “in fact,” we pointed out, the Times “ran a lengthy front page story headlined ‘Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep’ ” at the very time it was castigating anyone with the temerity to suggest Mr. Obama’s faith was worthy of examination.
Frankly, we don’t know how this was missed by what Mr. Brisbane terms the Times’s “lead editors and reporters.” Anyway, we welcome his sort of mea culpa on behalf of his now ex-employer.