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Good To Wrap Fish In


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There’s a certain maxim among media critics (and if there isn’t, the Monitor just coined it) that goes like this: If all seems right in the world of journalism, you probably haven’t opened up that day’s New York Times.Yes, another column on the Sulzberger family rag, undoubtedly to the dismay of an otherwise personable fellow we’ll call S.G. from Brooklyn who complains every time the Monitor takes a lighted match to the Gray Lady. But what choice, really, does the Monitor have?The Times has always been a rather arrogant institution, but there was a time when that arrogance was almost understandable. Nowadays, though, with the once-great newspaper an amalgam of mind-numbing political correctness and inexcusable sloppiness (the syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock has quipped that ‘The New York Times’s ‘corrections’ box soon may swallow the entire paper’), anyone who defends it either hasn’t read it closely in years or is simply inclined to living in the past.

That the Times has increasingly blurred the line that, in theory at least, separates opinion from reporting should be obvious to anyone without a ‘vacancy’ sign between his or her ears. Why, the Times’s own managing editor, Bill Keller, let slip an admission of his paper’s sneaky subjectivity in a recent interview with Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz.

Commenting on the Times’s series on race in America, Keller said that what made the project unique was the decision not to have each article ‘build up to a fourth or fifth paragraph where the writer stood back, cleared his throat and told you what to think. We trusted readers would draw their own conclusions and maybe disagree.’

The clear implication, of course, is that Times reporters usually do try to tell the reader ‘what to think.’ But for those still slow to catch on, Keller went even further, acknowledging that the Times has a habit of, in his words, ‘giving you a little editorial elbow in the ribs.’ Remember, Keller was speaking here of news stories, the last place any unsuspecting reader should have to expect ‘a little editorial elbow in the ribs.’The Times’s editorial leanings can be glimpsed, to one degree or another, in just about every piece the paper runs. One of the more blatant examples of the skewed, dishonest reporting that results from such a policy was on display in the Times’s coverage of last month’s Cincinnati riots – coverage that accomplished the neat trick of never once actually mentioning the word ‘riot.’

Instead, the Times – with its trademark deference to the sensitivities of what its editorial writers would no doubt call ‘the minority community’ – chose to describe the events in Cincinnati with innocuous euphemisms like ‘sporadic protests and vandalism.’

U.S. News columnist John Leo observed with disgust that the Times’s neutered language -doesn’t more than 100 homes and businesses set on fire or ‘the bullets whizzing by my head,’ as one resident put it.”

To better understand just how distorted a picture of the riots the Times gave its readers, consider this uncensored account by columnist Michelle Malkin in the New York Post:

‘In multiple scenes reminiscent of the brutal attack on white driver Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, black Cincinnati rioters beat and bloodied white motorists. The assailants hurled cement bricks at their victims as they drove by, and used baseball bats and bottles to damage their cars. WCPO-TV reported that ‘Protesters pulled several drivers out of their cars and hit them and their vehicles with bricks, rocks and glass.”

The Times, by contrast, basically shrugged off the bloody mayhem with the inane statement that groups of young blacks had merely ‘alarmed whites.’

John Leo put it best: ‘Because the Times smothered the news instead of reporting it, readers had almost no clue about the ferocity of what was happening in Cincinnati.’

And Jackie Mason had it exactly right when, in a momentary fit of seriousness, he urged the Times to change its slogan from ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ to ‘All the News That Fits Our Agenda.’

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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


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