The Times Critiques Itself

In light of the ridiculous review of Unfit for Command highlighted by the Trunk below, it is interesting that Daniel Okrent, the paper’s “Public Editor,” has a column today about the Times’ election year coverage. While Okrent purports to reject the usual newspaper proof of objectivity–it gets complaints from both liberals and conservatives–it appears to me that this is, in essence, what his defense comes down to. He finds the Times to be perfectly well-balanced in its election-year coverage.
Most interesting to me is Okrent’s conclusion. He is angry about the abuse being received by some Times reporters:

This piece turned out to be more of a rant than I intended, but given the vicious nature of some of the attacks levied against certain reporters, I wasn’t inclined to be temperate. There are many critics of The Times’s election coverage who are measured and reasonable, and their views – very different from my own – will be represented in this space next week. I also don’t wish to discourage readers who in good faith find errors, misrepresentations or unfair characterizations. They may occur randomly [Ed.: I don’t think they’re random at all], but their frequency is disappointing, and I’ll continue to forward meritorious complaints to the appropriate editors and reporters….
But before I turn over the podium, I do want you to know just how debased the level of discourse has become. When a reporter receives an e-mail message that says, “I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war,” a limit has been passed.
That’s what a coward named Steve Schwenk, from San Francisco, wrote to national political correspondent Adam Nagourney several days ago because Nagourney wrote something Schwenk considered (if such a person is capable of consideration) pro-Bush. Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as critics on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year. Maybe the bloggers who encourage their readers to send this sort of thing to The Times might want to ask them instead to say it in public. I don’t think they’d dare.

If there is a more anti-Bush reporter than Adam Nagourney, I can’t think who he might be. For leftists to accuse Nagourney of being pro-Bush is ridiculous. It is interesting, I think, that the left has become so crazed that it targets even liberals like Nagourney, and offends even liberals like Okrent, who notes in today’s column that he is a John Kerry voter. (I would add, like pretty much everyone at the Times.)
I also think it’s noteworthy that Okrent can’t resist attributing the “vileness” on the left to bloggers. I agree that there is lots of liberal hate speech on the internet, but to attribute the off-the-rails condition of modern liberalism to a handful of bloggers seems unusually myopic.


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