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All The News That’s Fit For Pinch


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About The New York Times it has been possible for a number of years now to declare, comfortably and without risk of contradiction, that relying on the once-formidable newspaper as one’s sole, or even primary, source of information can be hazardous to one’s intellectual health.

Never has the Times’s liberal bias been so pronounced, its editorial enthusiasms – particularly its twin obsessions with race and gender – so blatant in virtually everything it touches. Politically, the Times’s coverage of the Bush administration, Iraq and the international threat of jihadist terror (which the Times apparently believes to be at worst a low-level nuisance jacked up to apocalyptic proportions by neoconservative warmongers) has become so predictable as to have passed into the realm of unwitting self-parody.

Jews, of course, are infatuated with the Times – be they secular Manhattan liberals for whom the paper long ago assumed the status of Holy Scripture or identifiably Orthodox businessmen who each weekday morning can be seen lovingly folding back the broadsheet’s pages in subway cars throughout the city.

Not a few of the paper’s devoted readers seem to look to the Times to validate a self-image of worldly sophistication, and they give the distinct impression that they would rather be found dead than publicly perusing the pages of the Daily News or the New York Post.

At one time such devotion would have been at least somewhat understandable. For despite the Times’s shameful history on almost all things Jewish – an unfortunate consequence of the paper’s being owned by the type of hyper-assimilationist German Jews memorialized in Stephen Birmingham’s classic Our Crowd – there was no denying its primacy as a news-gathering machine second to none in size and scope, one generally viewed as objective and fair-minded in its reportage, even given a number of notable lapses.

The Times still boasts size and scope, but objectivity and fair-mindedness have gone the way of the Linotype, and not just because of the decision taken years ago to make the paper more “reader friendly” (i.e., more lifestyle features at the expense of hard news). No, the Times is what it is today due mainly to a change made in the early 90’s at the very top of the company.

Thanks to that change, much of what appears in the Times must be approached with an unflinchingly skeptical eye – a vigilant awareness of the agenda that drives the selection, placement and angle of everything from headlines to articles to photos.

As the journalist Harry Stein put it in his book How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), “on the most contentious social issues of the day – multiculturalism, feminism, gay rights – today’s Times is highly unreliable, scarcely even bothering to pretend to neutrality. Indeed, having chosen sides, the paper itself often seems as interested in reshaping society as the most committed activists.”

Like many other Times-watchers, Stein blames publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr., who took the paper’s reins from his father, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, in 1992.

A typical product of the 60’s counterculture, Junior (he hates the nickname Pinch) proudly stated soon after his anointing that if older white males were alienated by his ultra-politically correct version of the Times, well then, “we’re doing something right.”

Inevitably, wrote Stein, “under Pinch the paper was very quickly transformed into … a vehicle for the advancement of the kinds of social change being championed by those, like the young publisher himself, who imagine themselves the best and brightest of their generation.”

The result of that transformation, Stein lamented, is that “Quite simply, when it comes to any subject touching even remotely on politics, The New York Times just cannot be trusted.”

But perhaps the most astringent epitaph for the once-mighty Times was penned by the noted author – and former Timeswoman – Renata Adler in the introduction to Canaries in the Mineshaft, a collection of her essays:

For years, readers have looked in the Times for what was once its unsurpassed strength: the uninflected coverage of the news. You can look and look, now, and you will not find it there. Some politically correct series and group therapy reflections on race relations perhaps…. But nothing a reader can trust any longer, either. Certainly no reliable, uninflected coverage of anything, least of all the news. The enterprise, whatever else it is, has almost ceased altogether to be a newspaper.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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