Ed Driscoll

'Two Papers in One'

As Clay Waters writes at TimesWatch, “Some document leaks are more equal than others” at the New York Times; James Taranto sums up the Gray Lady’s growing schizophrenia with a pair of quotes one year — and two very different stories — apart:

  • “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”–New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009
  • “The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.”–New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010

How can the Times deal with global warming or the global war on terror (no matter how interrelated war and its “moral equivalent” can seem to self-styled progressives), when it’s still coming to grips with how the last long war ended?

As William McGowan’s new book, Gray Lady Down, reminds us, the Times is certainly challenged enough already from basic reality, but at Commentary, Max Boot adds his own “Challenge to the New York Times: Publish Your Internal Correspondence:”

Reading the New York Times’s “Note to Readers” explaining why it has decided once again to act as a journalistic enabler of WikiLeaks, I wondered why, if the Times believes that openness is so important to the operations of the U.S. government, that same logic doesn’t apply to the newspaper itself. The Times, after all, is still, despite its loss of influence in the Internet age, the leading newspaper in the U.S. and indeed the world. It still shakes governments, shapes opinions, and moves markets, even if it doesn’t do so as often or as much as it used to.

Imagine if the stentorian language employed by the Times were turned on itself. The editors write that

the more important reason to publish these articles is that the cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations — and, in some cases, duplicity — of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid. They illuminate the diplomacy surrounding two current wars and several countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where American military involvement is growing. As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name.

Isn’t it presumptuous to assume that readers of the New York Times have no right to know what is being done in their name by the editors of the New York Times? Isn’t it important for us to learn “the unvarnished story” of how the Times makes its editorial decisions — such as the decision to publish the WikiLeaks documents? Sure, we know the official explanation — it’s in the newspaper. But what happened behind the scenes? Maybe there were embarrassing squabbles that will make for juicy reading? Therefore, I humbly suggest that in the interest of the greater public good (as determined by me), Bill Keller, the editor, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, should release to the world all their private e-mails and memos concerning WikiLeaks.

Actually, let’s make our document request broader: the Times should share with the world all its internal correspondence going back years. That would include, of course, memos that disclose the identity of anonymous sources, including sources who may have risked their lives to reveal information to Times reporters. Of course, just as it does with government documents, we would give the Times the privilege of redacting a few names and facts — at least in a few of the versions that are published on the Internet.

Of course, if the stress of all that doublethink gets to be too much for Pinch’s beleaguered troops, they can always relax “Where Marxists make Merry,” as another Times headline with a duality all its own recently spotlighted.

Still though, unlike the Hide the Decline moment last year, which cast the Green Supremacists’ “Global Warming” machinations in a whole new light, some of the items disclosed by WikiLeaks very much fall into the category of conventional wisdom.

Such as:

What will happen next as the drip, drip, drip of leaks continues?