July 25, 2004

"Hey, what's that elephant doing in here?"

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll sticks a shiv in Howell Raines and reminds us that the bias doesn't end on 43rd Street: The Times, after all, sets the news agenda for all U.S. media, which means -- well, just start reading.

UPDATE: Donald Luskin isn't impressed:

Okrent totally side-steps the heart of the issue of the Times' liberal bias: its coverage of the presidency, of the war, of economic policy, and of Washington. He says,

"I'll get to the politics-and-policy issues this fall (I want to watch the campaign coverage before I conclude anything), but for now my concern is the flammable stuff that ignites the right. These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others..."

So someone who has lived day in and day out with the New York Times for the last seven months still has to watch campaign coverage before he "concludes anything"? Is the matter of the Times' liberal bias such a close call that it will take Okrent another couple months to be absolutely positively sure?

UPDATE: Ace keeps one eye trained on his favorite non-conservative conservative:

I'm actually interested in Andrew Sullivan's reaction. On one hand, Okrent takes on Sullivan's fourth biggest theme, NYT bias. But on the other hand, Sullivan's first three biggest themes are, in no particular order, gay marriage, gay marriage, and gay marriage, and here is Daniel Okrent saying that on this question, the NYT bias Sullivan likes to criticize just happens to be pushing his favorite issue.

Since this would be a tough issue to confront, I expect Sullivan to do what he usually does and completely ignore it.

Posted by Allah at July 25, 2004 12:45 AM | TrackBack

It's to Mr. Okrent's credit that he's shining an analytical flashlight in that direction.

Posted by: Bill from INDC at July 25, 2004 12:54 AM

I kept waiting for the satire to start. My brain didn't want to believe what I was reading.

Posted by: Joe R. at July 25, 2004 01:56 AM

please post a link that does not require registration. :)

I looked for a web site which pasted the story or which is partnered (like google) but came up empty so far.

Posted by: kaltes at July 25, 2004 02:37 AM

Well, Okrent was honest about it, although anyone paying attention to media bias issues already knew that the NYT is a partisan liberal paper. That was never in dispute by any rational person. Look at how they buried the Sandy Berger story deeper than Jimmy Hoffa on the day it broke, at the bottom of page A17.

Posted by: BarCodeKing at July 25, 2004 02:38 AM

kaltes -- Go here. They'll hook you up.

Posted by: Allah at July 25, 2004 02:41 AM

"Is the sky blue?"

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 25, 2004 02:50 AM

praise be to Allah, the most merciful, the most kind, for answering my prayer. ;)

Posted by: kaltes at July 25, 2004 02:56 AM

The BugMeNot accounts all seem to be dead.

You can go ahead and create an account filled with the most outlandish statistics you can fathom if you want to send them a message. The email address isn't ever checked, so you don't have to swallow any spam, either.

Posted by: McGroarty at July 25, 2004 02:58 AM

Praise Allah for the most glorious linkage and kind words. Not to mention posting the link to the Okrent piece in the first place!

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at July 25, 2004 03:21 AM

Yeah, we're liberal, but we're just a hometown paper!

The follow-up should be something along the lines of 'hey! what are all these people doing following little old us?'

Posted by: Wind Rider at July 25, 2004 07:40 AM

Read Donald Luskin's take on this. http://www.poorandstupid.com/chronicle.asp

Posted by: Midaz at July 25, 2004 10:33 AM

I work at a daily paper that is a rival to the NYT in NYC. You have no idea what this means. He just....well Holy Crap. He just fed 4 decades of liberal shiboleth into the shitheap.

BTW, Allah the most hung, has anyone checked in on Alterman.....is he ok?

Posted by: rod at July 25, 2004 11:22 AM

Okrent could had exercised a bit of parsimony in his apologia for the attitude and views of NYTimes and boiled it down to two words: sneering parochialism

Posted by: MrGrumpyDrawers at July 25, 2004 12:48 PM

Is the NY times liberal? Why write a column about a retorical question? What's next: Is John Kerry a democrat?

This column only makes sense if it depends on what your definition of "liberal" is. Wait, I get it now.

Posted by: JohnWayne at July 25, 2004 01:06 PM

Well, that "elephant" in the room can be mentioned, now, and the story has big, umbrella-stand sized legs.

What made Mr. Okrent go get his worthy flashlight, and shine it at a few dim corners that don't look so scary to him...

They've been outed. The blogosphere has called them out, or at least showed the Times up on some really, really stinky journalism.

The jig is up; reputation eventually becomes what it deserves to be.

Posted by: SarahW at July 25, 2004 02:16 PM


Use "freenyt" in both fields.

Posted by: Jolly Roger at July 25, 2004 02:17 PM

Okrent's article is totally fucking lame. It's like the classic answer to the classic job-interview "tough" question:

Q: What is your worst quality?

A: I can sometimes be SOOOOOO smart and talented and hard-working that I have a tough time accepting anything less than perfection from other people.

The article basically says that if you are some sort of loser or freak, you will feel like the Times does not represent you. He paints everyone who's ever expressed annoyance by the Times' biased NEWS coverage as some sort of prude who's scandalized by half-naked bitches, or a creationist, or some other freakish, fringy whiner. He actually manages, EVEN when supposedly talking about the elephant (biased NEWS coverage)in the living room, to avoid saying anything about it and talks exclusively about the opinion pages, culture, style, sports and the fucking science Times. Other than the opinion pages, have you ever heard anybody complain about any of those things? It seems to me that any "bias" on those pages is likely to be the sort of thing about which reasonable people can disagree (is this fashion spread Leftist?), and even more likely to big no big deal one way or the other. Neither of those things is true of the news coverage, but Okrent is selling the idea that that's what all the criticism of the Times boils down to -- differences of opinion and cultural perspectives. He's like Berger: admitting SOME wrongdoing, but parsing it very carefully, so his defenders can say it was no big deal. Okrent's not talking about the elephant, he's SPINNING the fucking elephant, which is actually worse than nothing, IMO.

He says he'll deal with news coverage later -- we'll see if he understands that word in the same sense that JMM does...

Posted by: DTLV at July 25, 2004 04:29 PM

Okrent: Well it's true we're Nazis but really that's what Berliners think and feel and want.

Posted by: Stephen at July 25, 2004 04:56 PM


like you, i thought the creationist jibe was a bit much. I mean, where are the cracks at GMO protesters or leftists trying to get genetic research to stop?

but it's a game of inches. getting this column into the times alone is the first step.

blogs ARE putting pressure on these guys. raines was taken down by blogs. okrent is well known because of blogs. the right *is* pushing back. this is not as far as we would like - yet - but politics is a game of inches.

Posted by: gc at July 25, 2004 05:12 PM

Allah quotes Ace: "Since this would be a tough issue to confront, I expect Sullivan to do what he usually does and completely ignore it."

How many other bloggers besides Sullivan have anyone constantly on their ass telling them what they must write about or how they must go about choosing their battles? Does Ace? Does Allah? If the shoe were on the other foot, I think either of them would say, "Fuck the moon god and fuck the jackass of spades; there has never been any question that I will do as I damn well think fit."

Posted by: Doug at July 25, 2004 05:32 PM
How many other bloggers besides Sullivan have anyone constantly on their ass telling them what they must write about or how they must go about choosing their battles?

Quite a few. A lot of bloggers fortunate enough to draw really big traffic have had "_____ Watch" sites dedicated to them at one time or another. I've seen "Instapundit Watch," "LGF Watch," and, of course, "WarBlogger Watch." I also remember a site called "Atrios Jr." which critiqued Atrios from the left. Such sites tend not to last long, though it's interesting that the Sullivan "Watch" blog -- "Sully Watch" -- has been at it for years and is still going strong. Must be a lot of material there.

Sullivan's blog isn't the most widely read but it is, arguably, the most important. According to Dan Drezner's recent paper on blogs, Sullivan is read by more professional journalists than any other blogger, by a wide margin. He appears regularly in a variety of mainstream publications, which 99.9% of other bloggers -- Glenn Reynolds included -- do not. In fact, I remember someone did a survey of popular bloggers last year to get their opinions on who, indeed, was the most influential. Andrew Sullivan's pick: Andrew Sullivan.

So I'll answer your question with a question: How many other bloggers wield the kind of influence that Sullivan does? Also, let me point out that, contrary to your suggestion, Ace didn't just pick a random issue out of the air and command Sullivan to write about it upon pain of being branded a coward. He picked Sullivan's two pet issues -- gay marriage and bias at the Times -- and noted that, in this particular case, they're in direct conflict. Is it so terribly unfair of him to expect Sullivan to say something about that?

Posted by: Allah at July 25, 2004 06:06 PM

One more thing. Every day I get e-mails from readers begging me to Photoshop the goofy picture of Kerry or Edwards that they've attached. Do I do it? No. But neither do I sit there and fume that these people have some nerve telling me what I should and shouldn't write about. Given the stuff I've done before, they have a perfectly reasonable expectation that I'd be interested in doing it again now. And that's exactly what's going on here with Ace vis-a-vis Sullivan, gay marriage, and bias at the Times.

Posted by: Allah at July 25, 2004 06:18 PM

Thanks for your long, thoughtful reply. My comment was an especially snarky one and the best that I can say for myself is that these political sites tend to catalyze that.

You asked, "How many other bloggers wield the kind of influence that Sullivan does?" You've convinced me that he may have the most influence. I think there must be a question behind that one, because it's not something about which I'm disputatious. I think your question is, "Shouldn't such an influential blogger have his critics?" Yes, he should, but it seems more reasonable from the standpoint of our common aims to direct the not-inconsiderable firepower of Allah and Ace squarely at hard-left targets like Atrios, Kos, and TPM, as well as NYT, LAT, and DU. I think it makes sense to give Sullivan milder and more respectful treatment in view of his not being hard left. I think the eruption from the right against Sullivan is more likely to drive him off than to accomplish much else, especially given that his chief objection to the right seems to be an accusation of hatefulness or "vitriol."

But I hasten to add that I'm certainly not calling you out on the matter of your choice of topics, a la Ace vs. Sullivan. Nor was I doing so some days ago when I complimented Ace on one of his watchdog posts and then suggested that his talents were better spent on that target (whichever one it may have been) than on Sully-baiting. I think you can appreciate the difference; Jesus, I hope so.

As for your second question, "Is it so terribly unfair of him to expect Sullivan to say something about that?" I'm not a very good judge of fairness and unfairness; I'm pretty sure I never or almost never venture an opinion about fairness in comments, although I sometimes make careless use of a word like "deserve." But as a practical matter, I think it's unreasonable -- if it's even meant seriously -- to think that Sullivan might engage in what would amount to a Sullivan-vs.-Sullivan shooting match. Certainly I would be disappointed in his lack of strategic acumen if he were to do that. There are so many points of attack on the NYT; why would he choose that one, especially at the behest of someone who would be delighted if he undercut himself? I guess I'm here, making the point to you rather than to Ace, because I think you're more likely to appreciate the point. Over there, the professed attitude, at any rate, is pretty much, "Let justice be done, though the earth perish." I, on the other hand, don't think that we should treat morality as a suicide pact. Come on, fellow atheist, you will acknowledge that point, won't you? Or does God have some special reward saved up for people who deliberately shoot themselves or their causes in the foot? :-)

Posted by: Doug at July 26, 2004 01:01 AM
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