Monday, May 23, 2005

All the Kneeling to Power That's Fit to Print

The New York Times is a newspaper I used to hold with the highest respect. And while there still can be some good stories from some of its more serious reporters (like Phil Shenon, Carl Hulse, Ed Andrews and David Cay Johnston), it is well on its way to becoming a laughingstock when it comes to political reporting. Its philosophy has crystallized around one singular axiom: don’t challenge people the political Establishment perceives to be all-powerful. The travesty is that this axiom is diametrically opposed to what the press’s mission is supposed to be.

First, we found out last year that before the invasion of Iraq, the Times’ top White House reporter flippantly justified not asking the President tough questions before the war was because she was simply too afraid to challenge the White House "at this very serious time."

Now, we have this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine profile of Rick Santorum. For Santorum, the piece was the equivalent of what Monica Lewinsky did to President Clinton in the shadowy confines of the Oval Office. For the public, it was pathetic pandering propaganda that insults people’s intelligence. This, apparently, is the reward the paper gives out when politicians like Santorum publicly equate it to the Nazis. Not a tough piece, not even a fair piece - an absolute whitewash, replete with an angelic cover photo of Santorum, as if God's light is beaming down upon him from Heaven.

There are so many blurred facts and gloss overs of Santorum’s record in this piece, one has to believe the reporter who wrote this was deliberately trying to deceive the public and help Santorum remake himself before his very tough election. Here’s just one that stuck out to me:


"'You hear public servant, and everyone just sort of blows over the servant part,’ [Santorum] said when I asked about the political motivations of his antipoverty initiatives. 'But I really do take it seriously. I want to make a difference in people's lives and serve others.'…'He was a singular voice in Republican leadership fighting for antipoverty legislation,' [former Bush official] Kuo said. ‘He kept pushing it. I was in meetings when people would start rolling their eyes when he started talking about it. It is very much at odds with the public perception of him. He fought behind the scenes where nobody could see it. His compassion is genuine.’…It is no easy thing [for Santorum] to be a low-tax, small-government Republican and an antipoverty crusader."
- NY Times magazine, 5/22/05


The supposedly "compassionate" Santorum - who supposedly cares so much about the poor that he is billed an "antipoverty crusader" by the Times - actually bragged about his efforts to make the poor suffer. In 2003, as he tried to cut welfare and child care funds, he said "Making people struggle a little bit is not necessarily the worst thing." And this year, he actually offered a bill to eliminate the minimum wage for up to 7 million workers.

None of this, of course, was mentioned in the New York Times whitewash. And this one example of deletion from this story is emblematic of the piece’s wider disregard for telling the real truth. Let's be clear - I wouldn't have been happy if this was a one-sided attack piece on Santorum. That's not the Times' role. But if something is going to be labeled "journalism," that it should at the very least tell the whole story – and not just provide us with 10 pages of overt fellating and genuflecting.

The Times motto may still be "all the news that’s fit to print" – but increasingly, it is "all the right-wing spin that is fit to kiss the rear end of those in power." That is doing great harm to journalism – and to American democracy
Read On; Link Above.
Top NY Times White House reporter refused to ask tough questions before the war:
Sunday NY Times magazine profile of Rick Santorum:
Santorum publicly equated the NY Times with the Nazis:
Santorum tries to eliminate the minimum wage for 7 million workers: 


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