Ed Driscoll

What A Difference Four Years Makes

Clark Hoyt, the New York Times’ ombudsman, writes:

Throughout this election season, most of the thousands of messages I have received about Times news coverage have alleged bias — bias in headlines, photo selections, word choices, what the newspaper chooses to write about and what it ignores, what it puts on Page 1 and what it puts inside. Most of the complaints, but by no means all of them, have come from the right. Nobody acknowledges the possibility that, because of their own biases, they could be reading more, or less, than was intended into an article, a headline or a picture. Many go a step beyond alleging mere bias to accuse The Times of operating from a conscious agenda to help one candidate and destroy the other.

“It’s so obvious who the NYT is supporting for the presidency,” said Cheryl Page of Jackson, Miss. “How sad that our media can’t just report the news, rather than print their opinions in biased ways.” There is a proper place for opinion in The Times — the editorial and Op-Ed pages — and there is no doubt that most of the newspaper’s regular columnists and its editorial policy favor Obama. It would be a shock if The Times did not endorse him.

But the paper’s news coverage is another matter. It is supposed to be evenhanded. I think I’ve seen bias from time to time, and I think The Times made a serious mistake early this year that gave its critics on the right a lot of ammunition: an article that suggested, but failed to prove, a romantic relationship between John McCain and a female lobbyist. (The Op-Ed page, though independent from the newsroom, added to the problem when it ran an article by Obama without first securing a companion piece from McCain. McCain then offered a rebuttal, but when the paper asked for major revisions, he refused and his supporters cried foul.) But I think the news coverage over a long campaign has been better and fairer than critics would admit.

At least the Times’ previous ombudsman was willing to come clean four years ago.

(Hoyt’s article is titled, “Keeping Their Opinions to Themselves”–not to be confused of course, with “The News We Kept To Ourselves“–different news agency; different messianic figure being propped up.)

Related: And speaking of what a difference four years makes….