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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New York Times Editor Makes Definitive Statement on Newsroom Bias; Yet MSM All But Ignores It

It's been more than a month since an analysis first appeared here of a memo by The New York Times' Executive Editor Bill Keller responding to an internal committee's report on restoring the credibility of the newspaper of record.

But unless you are a blog reader, receive the newspaper industry's top trade publication or happenned to hear a PBS show featuring Keller, you probably don't know that the Timesman conceded what critics have claimed about liberal bias for decades when he observed in his memo that "even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages."

I blogged at length on Keller's memo and the committee report June 28. But besides postings by other bloggers, reports in Editor & Publisher, some pieces in Salon and Slate and an edition of PBS's excellent "On the Media" radio show hosted by Bob Garfield, Keller's comment has all but disappeared since its initial public appearance in mid May.

That invisibility might be attributable to some degree to professional courtesy among editors, but my guess is that it is more related to not wanting to call attention to the fact Keller's statement so profoundly concedes what critics have said for so long and thus confounds all of those MSM denials over the years since Spiro Agnew's first mention of the "nattering nabobs of negativism."

I remain of the opinion that Keller deserves much credit for his response to the committee and several of the measures he has since implemented ought to make a significant improvement in the Times' reporting. But shouldn't Keller's colleagues at other major dailies be asking themselves to what degree do their publications share the same problems that afflict the newspaper of record? And shouldn't they be discussing those problems with readers?


The New York Times announced today that it is combining it's dead-tree edition newsroom staff with the staff of the online version. Romanesko has the memo. Expect more such announcements in the near future from other major dailies.


Check out the comments section of Captain's Quarters posting on the Keller memo (and thanks, Ed, for the link!). The first comment is right on, and not only because it anticipates the basic point underlying my column on this subject, which will appear Friday on Townhall.com.