There’s a very telling quote from new NY Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson in the lengthy profile of her in the New Yorker. The quote in question helps put to bed the notion that the most important media outlet in the world (arguably) is some sort of bastion of the “liberal media.”
Abramson, asked whether the Times has a liberal bias, says, “I think we try hard not to” be biased, but she adds that the Times, as its public editor argued in a column seven years ago, has an insular urban bias that is sometimes apparent in social stories. She fervently believes that the Times is an equal-opportunity prober of Democrats as well as of Republicans. Asked about her own upbringing, she responds, “I’m often the one who raises the point in page-one meetings that our mix of stories is too urban in outlook, too parochial. All my years in Washington, and in some ways being attacked by conservatives, made me more conscious of how a story might be seen in the rest of America.”
Here, Abramson tells us that she has in fact internalized the decades of conservative attacks on the media – led by Washington-based institutions that quite frankly have a very poor idea of how stories are really seen “in the rest of America.”
You’ll remember Nancy Pfotenhauer, a DC-based Republican who, while working for the McCain campaign, lectured on what regions of Virginia were “real” (the more conservative, rural areas) versus unreal (the more liberal, urban areas), an argument echoed nationally by Sarah Palin. These artificial, false distinctions are part of the conservative’s false construct of our world.
This is the kind of internalized criticism that led Abramson to be part of the team at the Times that put Judith Miller’s false WMD misinformation on the front page of the paper. As an institution, it’s also the brand of internalized criticism that caused the Times to be in front of the crowd demanding investigations of President Clinton for Whitewater, suspicions of guilt the independent counsel later dismissed after millions of taxpayer dollars had been spent.
The press should, above all, be fair. The Times believes as an institution that this means they should be unbiased in their approach (I would personally argue a news outlet can have a point of view while still reporting honestly, but that’s another discussion), but all the way at the top of the masthead, they overcompensate for what often turns out to be false allegations of bias (the MRC and its tentacles have a less than honest relationship with the truth).
That’s why your news is screwed up.