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Recalibrating the New York Times

We here at Wizbang! are a pretty laissez-faire group. For the most part, we all write what we want, when we want, utterly independent of each other. And rarely do we address each others' writings directly. I can recall one time Paul did publicly disagree with me, and in that case I reconsidered and decided he was right. It took a bit of time and a couple of false starts, but in the end I had to admit I was originally utterly talking out my ass, and I thank Paul for correcting me.

In that spirit (and with just a hint of glee), I have to quibble with Paul in his defense of the New York Times last week. His basic argument seems to be an application of one of my favorite aphorisms -- "never ascribe to malice that which can be ascribed to incompetence" -- but I think that to apply it so broadly in this case is giving them too much credit, in the light of far more evidence.

I'm no gun expert, but I'm going to use a firearms metaphor here. Suppose the New York Times was a rifle. If they were merely inaccurate, as some say to defend their numerous errors, then one would expect the target to be pretty evenly perforated. Bullet holes would be scattered all over the place. But that's not the case here.

Take a look at some of the more egregious New York TImes "mistakes" of the past few years. The Katrina refugee story Paul cited. The coverage of Katrina itself. Their role in the Texas Air National Guard fake memos story. The discussion of Marines and body armor. Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Adviser, stealing documents from the National Archives. The "tons of missing explosives in Iraq" story. Their analysis of the 9/11 commission. And so on. And so on.

There is a common thread between all these stories? In every single case, it's not just that the story was wrong. it was that in every single case, the wrong story slammed -- directly or indirectly -- the Bush administration.

I challenge anyone -- anyone -- to find a New York Times story that was wrong and reported something favorable to the Bush administration.

Going back to my gun analogy, imagine that target again. Instead of the holes being scattered all over the target, they are all clustered six to eight inches to the left of the center. That's not an inaccurate gun, it's an improperly aligned gun. All it takes to "fix" it is a little recalibrating.

The Times has long had the reputation of being THE standard of journalism. They are a "master marksman," in my metaphor. They've been shooting for a long time. So why haven't they noticed their mistakes all seem to have this common thread?

If I saw an expert shooter who blew away target after target, each time missing the center and instead clustering his shots off to one side, I'd have no choice to conclude that it was a deliberate choice: for whatever reason, the shooter was deliberately missing the bullseye and arbitrarily picking another part of the target. Because a good shooter would correct or compensate for a misaligned gun, not just keep plugging away.

The Times has had years and countless prime examples to notice and observe its own reporting, and has made absolutely no effort to do so. I am left with no choice to conclude that they are not being inaccurate, but rather know exactly what they are doing -- and don't mind it in the least.

It's not a happy conclusion to reach, but I really don't see any other explanations. We've long past the limits of the "never ascribe to malice" aphorism. We reached the "once can be an accident, twice a coincidence, but three times is a trend" point ages ago.

(Update: DUH. I originally considered this piece last week, but decided against it. It was Kim's piece of last night that made me reconsider.)


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Recalibrating the New York Times:

» exvigilare linked with Calibration contest

» Conservative Outpost linked with Daily Summary

Comments (10)

Exactly, Jay. We don't min... (Below threshold)

Exactly, Jay. We don't mind the Times being wrong every now and then so much as we mind them being consistent in their wrongness. 'Wrongness' - is that a word?

The other part of the problem, though, is that their 'consistent wrongness' seems to occur on the biggest stories, the ones where it's most important to hit the target squarely. Like shooting at a charging rhino - you'd better not miss left, or the rhino will run you down.

So very well put.I... (Below threshold)

So very well put.

I realized the malice of the NYT back during Rathergate. I was following the news assiduously, and noticed the slant. It angered me so much that I haven't read it since because it has lost whatever authority I'd given it.

It's amazing, but whenever ... (Below threshold)

It's amazing, but whenever I check in here I recognize your writing style from the very first lines.

For me the mendacity of the NYT is a given, and has been for a very long time. Under Pinch Sulzberger the paper is like Pravda or Izvestia during the Cold War. I don't trust it to report the weather correctly, much less politics.

Hear, hear! Consistent</... (Below threshold)

Hear, hear! Consistent wrongness we can live with from the Times. What I can't get over is the consistent lefty refusal to admit any bias.

You nailed it, Jay. There can be only one reason, and that's a refusal to "recalibrate" to the center. I don't think that's asking too much - after all, isn't that what we're supposed to get from them?

Well said; you nailed it. <... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:

Well said; you nailed it.

I suppose that it would mak... (Below threshold)

I suppose that it would make a difference only if the NYT was still the 'paper of record' but they haven't been for years. Inaccuracies and biased reporting are a staple stock and to be sure, they cater to a specific east coast audience that can hardly be described as conservative.

So you argument is that bec... (Below threshold)

So you argument is that because they have been biased in the past they must have been biased today.

Instead of looking at the merits of this case you look at what makes you biased against them.

And to think I ended my post with "If we demand responsibility of them then we too must be responsible with our criticism. Anything less is hypocrisy.

Congratulations Jay. You've defined hypocrisy for me. The next time you condemn someone for an action, it might be wise to not be engaging in that same action whilst doing it.

Redhand, I've gotten to rec... (Below threshold)
phillip II:

Redhand, I've gotten to recognize the J style from the headline alone. That's how I know to skip that one;)

Christ, Tea, it's about fuc... (Below threshold)

Christ, Tea, it's about fucking time you woke up. Asshole. I would only use the NYT to wipe my dog's ass. It's a shit rag about to implode.

There is no news organizati... (Below threshold)

There is no news organization, in this country, so blatantly attacking the President as the NY Times. It appears that they are willing to sacrifice their credibility in this attempt, which is the shame of all this.
In the end, the only think a newspaper or organization has is their credibility and, if they're willing to sacrifice it, especially in this day and age when facts can be checked quickly and put out much faster than the Times can refute them, they treading on thin ice. I can't believe there is no one, in this organization, that realizes the position the paper has put itself in.






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