PJ Media

The Gray Lady Rejects McCain

Someday, when newspapers are a thing of the past and you take your grandkid to the museum where artifacts of the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune are on display in vacuum sealed cases to protect the yellowing, brittle paper from disappearing entirely, there will be a special exhibit devoted entirely to the New York Times.

Famous front pages will be featured along with pictures of the Sulzberger family who owned the paper for generations, famous reporters, and the last publisher when the paper folded in 2018 — Matt Drudge.

The inscription on the shiny bronze plate below the exhibit might read:

Thought of as the “newspaper of record” for more than 100 years, the Times eventually succumbed to disappearing ad revenue, a catastrophic decline in circulation, and the consequences of a perpetual, unrelenting, obvious and sickening bias exhibited against its political enemies.

Scott Rasmussen has been polling the attitudes of voters toward the news media and has uncovered the not-so-startling statistic that 50% of independent voters believe that reporters favor Barack Obama and are trying to help him win. Only 14% believe that they are assisting John McCain. With half the country able to see through the gushing idolatry of the press and their shameless promotion of Obama’s candidacy, where does that leave journalistic standards like objectivity and fairness?

Newspapers, we are told, should not strive for something as elusive as a will-o-the-wisp objectivity in their reporting. Whether that’s true or not we will never know because no major paper has ever risen to the challenge and tried it.

But at the very least, the consumer of news should be able to expect some kind of fairness in coverage of the major issues of the day. At least an attempt at fairness is acceptable. If you’re going write a hit piece about an alderman with his hand in the till, you owe the crook the benefit of asking for his reaction or response to the charges.

For the New York Times, however, no such mundane rules apply. From their lofty perch, manning the battlements promoting and protecting liberal causes and candidates, all they espy through their cracked and warped looking glass is a single field of vision that allows for no discernment beyond their own rigid and crude biases.

Last week, Barack Obama published an op-ed that could have been titled “What I did on my Summer Vacation,” so empty and full of meaningless platitudes as it was. Instead, he cleverly titled it “My Plan For Iraq,” to which he could have added “This Week” but didn’t. It broke no new ground, generated a moderate amount of buzz in that people still marvel at how much Obama can write without saying anything of substance, and was considered a curiosity considering Obama was set to deliver his “big speech” on Iraq the following day in Washington.

The other man running for president (you may have heard of him), John McCain, saw Obama’s piece and got a little hot under the collar. Now I don’t believe all those stories about McCain flying off the handle and throttling Nicaraguan Communists (I wouldn’t mind necessarily in that case if it were true), but in this case he was going to let his pen do all the talking. McCain and company dashed off a quick 700 words and sent it in to the Times, confident that their response would be received with the deference and alacrity that Obama’s piece had been given.

The Times editorial page poobah, David Shipley, was in no mood to be deferential or alacritous — except in the speed and condescension in which he rejected the piece.

“It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece,” the New York Times op-ed editor cooed in an email to the McCain camp on Friday night. “‘I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft.”

I’m sure Shipley thought he was being helpful, trying to assist an old man who had lost his way and didn’t really mean all those things he was saying about Iraq, about “victory,” and about all that stuff that the Times had given up on years ago.

McCain’s staff were not amused, with one incredulous aide claiming (according to Drudge) “the paper simply does not agree with the senator’s Iraq policy, and wants him to change it, not ‘re-work the draft.'”

Not exactly, says Shipley:

Shipley, who is on vacation this week, explained his decision not to run the editorial.

“The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans.”

Shipley continues: “It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.”

Aside from the fact that there was absolutely no “new information” in Obama’s piece, which actually recycled his latest proposals where a 16 month timetable would be put in place unless he were to ditch the timetable after he discussed the situation with the generals which he wouldn’t do and even if he did it wouldn’t matter anyway unless it did. And no permanent bases would be negotiated — really.

Shipley, who worked for President Clinton, obviously did not take lessons in how to fib from his former boss because he is a transparently terrible liar. He is making it perfectly clear that it is alright for Obama to be as nebulously obtuse about how he wants to get out of Iraq, but McCain must be rigidly, perfectly “concrete” on how he proposes to win the war? This with the virtual assurance that even if McCain were to bow and scrape by including such a formulation in the op-ed that Shipley would reject it for not being “concrete” enough? What kind of deal is that?

A raw deal, to be sure. But the smirking Mr. Shipley will not get the last laugh in this case. The Drudge Report reprinted the entire McCain op-ed on its website. Since Mr. Drudge enjoys a readership of around 2.6 million uniques a day, McCain’s ideas will receive a fair hearing despite the efforts of the New York Times to shut him up.

I suppose there was a time when we didn’t know any better and we really believed that the New York Times was interested in publishing “all the news that’s fit to print.” That slogan dates back to 1896 when rival publishers routinely touted their own candidates and their own parties on the front pages of their newspapers. Those were the wide open, brawling days of the business when newspaper’s were two cents worth of froth, mayhem, blood, and in your face partisan politics.

The New York Times tried to change that and make newspapering a respectable business by offering a staid, solemn, and serious approach to the news. Soon, they had copycats all over the country and the dissemination of news was no longer left in the hands of hacks, carnival hucksters, and tin pot politicians, but men who saw money in muckraking, promoting reform, and analyzing the world of their readers. It was a revolution.

Like all revolutions, it eventually turned on and consumed the ideas of its progenitors and morphed into something hideously unrecognizable. In the case of the modern newspaper — specifically the New York Times — it is the overarching arrogance of belief in their own superior judgment over people they used to think they were serving. It has led to a culture that has gone beyond simple bias and equates newsprint with Holy Writ. This obviates the need for fairness and even accuracy. When all that is turned out as a product is done in service to a cause, not only does the quality of news reporting suffer but the public, more eager for other vantage points than the one point of view offered by the Times, will end up deserting the familiar in order to satisfy their own cravings for information.

The Times is dying. And the story of John McCain’s discarded op-ed is one of the big reasons why.

This is beyond bias.