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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Seeing Double At The NY Times NY Times

The NY Times Sunday Book Review adored Alterman's effort on liberal media bias last, uhh, Sunday. But once was not enough! Today, they give space to Orville Schell to further praise Mr. Alterman's output.

It seems like only yesterday that I had fun with the Sunday review provided by Ted Widmer by noting how the NY Times slanted his biography. Last August when Mr. Widmer had a guest editorial in the NY Times, he was identified thusly:"Ted Widmer, director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, was director of speechwriting at the National Security Council from 1997 to 2000.

However, for purposes of evaluating liberal media bias, the NY Times no longer found the Clinton Administration tidbit relevant, so from the Sunday review we learned that "Ted Widmer is the director of the C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College in Chestertown, Md." The cover-up continues!

And since I am a one-trick pony, I thought I would check the background of Mr. Orville Schell, who sounds like a fascinating guy. From his bio, there is at least a chance that he could be characterized as a mainstream lefty - consultant to CBS and PBS, Dean at Berkeley, how does one know? Fortunately, back in 1998, someone asked him about media bias:

One final question. Is there a liberal bias in the media?

I don't know. You could ask another question: Is there a liberal bias amongst educated people? Probably there is. If you ask what I am, I don't know; and I feel many of my kindred spirits in the Fourth Estate don't know what they are either. We are basically truth-mongers, I hope.

He doesn't know what he is! Well, if his guess is as good as mine, I will guess "liberal". And walk tall, that's nothing to be ashamed of.

And dare we address the content of the latest review? We do.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and our subsequent military involvement in Central Asia shocked Americans into a fleeting recognition of how dependent we actually are on the news media to keep us informed about complex global issues. Now at the brink of a war against Iraq and with the United States trying to redefine its leadership role in the world, we are reminded how crucial it is to have fair and accurate news media at home, especially as we find ourselves dealing with unprecedented national security concerns, resurgent patriotism and increasingly vituperative party politics.

Ahh, for the carefree innocence of the late 90's impeachment, or the mid 90's and the war in Bosnia, or the early 90's and Desert Storm, or the late 80's and the collapse of the Soviet Empire, or the mid 80's and the Reagan defense build-up, or Iran Contra or - hmm, just when is there a good time to have an unfair and inaccurate media? We're off to a bit of a rough start here.

Instead of focusing on how journalism might serve this country better as it faces these hours of decision, however, we find ourselves distracted and divided by a barrage of accusations from conservatives charging the media with liberal bias.

I can't even decide just how absurd this sentence is, but I doubt I will read something sillier today, or this week. Let's see:

1. Is this the Red Queen School of Journalism - "Sentence first, verdict afterwards!" How do we focus on "on how journalism might serve this country better" without discussing flaws in the current media machine? I can picture Mr. Schell tapping his feet impatiently in a doctor's waiting room, wondering why he can't simply get a prescription, or an x-ray, or some damn thing, and dispense with the tedious exam.

2. Send it to rewrite! "Instead of focusing on how [the Administration] might serve this country better as it faces these hours of decision, however, we find ourselves distracted and divided by a barrage of accusations from [Democrats charging the Bush Administration with incompetence.]" Ohh, no one likes that, I bet.

3. Time and Tide Wait For No Man: In his next paragraph, Mr. Schell cites the books by Goldberg, Coulter, and Savage as examples of this distracting assault on our media. Goldberg's book came out in December 2001, so it was probably written before the WTC attack. Should it not have been published in response to the attacks? Ms. Coulter's effort seems to have been published in June of 2002 - might this have been a better time to suspend freedom of the press?

Fine, in the balance of the review, Mr. Schell praises Alterman. Bravo.

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