The wonderful parody in Slate today, “The New York Times: The Final Edition,” got me to thinking about the “paper of record” once again. The parody deftly captures its irrelevance, the pomposity of its reporters’ stories, the grandiosity of its op-ed writers, and what undoubtedly the paper would be like were they running their very last edition!
If William McGowan has to write a new chapter for the paper edition of his book Gray Lady Down, he won’t have one bit of trouble coming up with lots of new material. As the paper steadily moves downhill, its editors and writers keep coming up with new material, which they will be handing to him on a silver platter.
There’s no secret anymore as to why the paper has become worse than it ever was. The editors and writers are on the political left; and they are pompous enough to think that since everyone they know thinks the same way, what they are writing is objective. This is not to say that its bias is a relatively new thing. It’s just that in the paper’s heyday, you could find relatively straightforward top-notch reporting. But even then, on certain issues, there was very little difference between the editorial side and that of the reporters.
There are two main examples of this. First, of course, is Walter Duranty, whose falsehoods on the Soviet famine in the Ukraine got him the paper’s very first Pulitzer Prize. The second is the reporting on Castro and the Cuban Revolution by Herbert Matthews. New Yorkers remember the billboard ads taken by National Review of the magazine’s famous cover of Castro with the heading, “I got my job through the New York Times.” As his biographer wrote in his book The Man Who Invented Fidel, the paper let Matthews both report and write editorials on the subject of his reporting, without even the pretense of a separation between the two departments of the paper. (You can find my review of the book here.)
The past week, there have been more than a few good examples of how the paper’s bias appears. The first is in an amazing dispatch in the new issue of The Weekly Standard, in which the editors point out that “if you get your news only from the New York Times, the self-styled newspaper of record, you would have read on Wednesday that information from enhanced interrogations played only a ‘small role at most’ in finding bin Laden.”
As they explain:
The Times is heavily invested in this storyline, having claimed repeatedly over the years that such interrogations are ineffective. Never mind that the CIA’s own declassified assessment of the interrogations demonstrates the opposite: Some 70 percent of what the U.S. intelligence community knows about al Qaeda came from detainees subject to enhanced interrogation, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad willingly gave “terrorist tutorials” to his interrogators after he was broken.
The editors also point out that the two reporters for the NYT story were Scott Shane, whose articles “would fit comfortably in the pages of The Nation,” and Charlie Savage, author of a comfortably left-wing book about national security issues. The editors write:
The authors pitted Bush administration officials against “human rights advocates” and former intelligence officials. They quoted Glenn Carle, a former CIA operative. Carle did not speak directly to the piece of intelligence that set the CIA on the trail to bin Laden, but he did share his opinion that coercive techniques “didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.” Such procedures, he added, were “un-American.” The next day, Carle continued his campaign against enhanced interrogation on a conference call conducted by the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress.
What the Times story does not point out are the contrary assessments of both former CIA director Mike Hayden and Leon Panetta. Panetta “confirmed that intelligence obtained through enhanced interrogations helped the agency find bin Laden.” This means that our president won his victory partially on the basis of information gathered by the Bush administration through “enhanced interrogation techniques,” obviously including waterboarding. The Standard editors conclude: “The Times, however, did not find this news fit to print. They ignored it.”
That, sadly, is becoming par for course at the once-admired newspaper.