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Gray Lady Or Yellow Journalism?

by Amo (writer), New York, February 26, 2008

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It seems that a once honorable and revered newspaper has now become nothing more then a gossip driven and biased publication, short on facts and driven by nothing more then its own political agenda.

Sadly, this once giant of journalistic integrity, has sunk into an abased self indulgent and tawdry tabloid, driven now only by a skewed ideology.

However, it wasn’t always that way. I recall as a young man how I first became introduced to The New York Times and how I would debate the issues of the day and quote from its editorial pages. I remember my dad showing me how to master turning and folding those large pages, that seemed to go on and on forever, and of course a dictionary was always a good idea to have handy.

While New York City had several “hometown newspapers”, only the New York Times however, set the standard that others were measured by, and it soon became known as “the paper of record” around the nation. It was insightful, innovative, sassy, and it distinguished itself from the others, with journalistic integrity.

Obviously, the New York Times that I knew and loved to read, no longer exists. For almost a decade this once proud “gray lady” has slowly regressed becoming nothing more then an overpriced imitation of those seedy publications that alien the back shelves of newsstands.

What is surprising is not the lack of credible investigative reporting or the slip shod smearing of presidential candidate John McCain, but rather the astounding remarks by the Executive Editor, Bill Keller, responding to the overwhelming negative backlash by its readers.

“I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republications in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot”.

Obviously, Mr. Keller doesn’t have a clue as to why 2,400 readers swamped the New York Times with letters and emails condemning the paper for running a decade old unsubstantiated story and recycling it too appear as if it were a fact-finding and newsworthy exposé.

Sadly, this shoddy and willful betrayal of trust is reminiscent of another ethically challenged New York Times reporter, by the name of Jayson Blair who committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud. Blair repeatedly violated the carnal tenet of journalism, that of truth, and continually fabricated and plagiarized from others.

Astoundingly, Blair’s immediate supervisors knew of Blair’s erratic behavior, and rumors of his plagiarizing long before it became public knowledge, yet he worked at the paper for well over year, long after the quality of his writings and credibility became an issue.

Years later, I had an opportunity to confront Blair on an internet blog site, where he excused his actions, by sighting emotional distress. Of course, when I pressed him further on the subject, he simply vanished. Blair of course, isn’t the only journalist or reporter at the New York Times, to have usurped journalistic integrity, there have been others.

Just recently, another New York Times reporter by the name of Charlie LeDuff was accused of “borrowing” complete passages from a book written by author and Professor Blake Gumprecht, in which he chronicles kayaking down the Los Angeles River. The similarities between the Times article and the book, went far beyond accepted journalistic practices.

Incredibly, The New York Times has been willing to overlook LeDuff’s sloppy journalistic shortcuts, so much, so that even antiwar “fake quotes” attributed to a Navel Officer to fit LeDuff’s political agenda, went unpunished.

Obviously, The New York Times has some serious issues that go far beyond the smear campaign against John McCain. They’ve lost all credibility and have allowed their ideology to get in the way of truthful reporting.

The arrogance and condescending nature of its management to the McCain backlash is astounding. Rather then admitting an error in judgment, Keller went on defending the article, by suggesting that the piece was nothing more then a “long running” series of biographical pieces on the candidates. He went on and on about issues that have long ago been put to rest.

However, want I found most telling about Keller’s remarks, is this one passage in reference to McCain. “He has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation”.

Perhaps I’m a bit dimwitted as I’ve read this passage several times, and I’m still having trouble understanding it, and that seems to be the issue with the Times…they say nothing, yet imply everything.



About the Writer

Amo is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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7 comments on Gray Lady Or Yellow Journalism?

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By Lady D on February 27, 2008 at 12:50 pm

As I was taught in jounalism class, this happens all to often. Most of times it is laziness as to fact checking.

The ABC'sof journalism -accuracy, brevity and clarity- News Reporting and Writing-Melvin Mencher

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on March 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

Yes, sadly, in an age of increasingly unethical news and journalism work (and corporate/ private ownership/interest), even those sources that have long stood as bastions of unbiased, critical work have worn down and at times sink to the level of most other publications and media channels.

However, when we condemn those sources that are still committed to an ethic so rarely attended to at large for their lapses, we de-legitimize those publication's continued striving to produce something fair and worthy. When an individual journalist or author employed by a paper operates as Blair is accused of having done, it is a real abuse of that position's responsibility both to the profession and their employer, in particular when the latter vocally stands for fair reporting.

In an age of real gossip-based reportage both in print and televised news, and one in which there exists an ever-intangling web of private and public realms, funding, information availability, and interests, ultimately it falls to the public, to the individual, to seek out balanced information from a range of sources. It would be a near impossible challenge to find ANY news source not guilty of the above, and most are blatant, constant purveyors of misinformation to a near unbelievable extend.

Before we throw the Times out with the bathwater, we should be honest to ourselves about our own times -- and what responsibilities exist for each of us in those parameters. Where are we getting our "news"? Who do we assume is an "expert"? How and when do facts become "legitimate"?

It's a tangled and complicated web with many weavers. I don't absolve the Times or any other, but also admit that our methods and functions always adapt to the pressures and structural changes occuring around our production, both cultural and journalistic. Stressful, personally and professionally! But a good conversation to engage in.

Interesting!

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By Amo on March 21, 2008 at 03:09 pm

The fundamental principle of any “legitimate news organization” is to ferret out the truth, no matter where it may lead. Jayson Blair was merely the manifestation, of what the New York Times has ultimately become.

The likes of Blair would not have happened, if it were not for a pervasive culture that now seems to have filtered to the front pages of the New York Times, and subscribes to ideology before journalistic integrity.

With all due respect, there is no excuse for journalistic fraud! Blair repeatedly violated the carnal tenet of journalism, that of truth, and continually fabricated and plagiarized from others, and the New York Times simply looked the other way, to suggest anything else, would be foolish.

The fact that the Executive Editor Bill Keller was surprised by the overwhelming backlash, by his own readers, on a rehashed, decade old story, promoting it as newsworthy, speaks volumes about the paper.

We’re not discussing an opinion piece, or an editorial, but rather hard news…no matter how you try to sell it…most thinking individuals aren’t buying it.

Amo  

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By Amo on March 21, 2008 at 03:34 pm

Morgana,

Words to live by…thank you for the kind words!

Amo

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on April 02, 2008 at 11:24 am

I only now read your comments, and I admit very little prior knowledge of that particular scandal -- I absolutely agree that there is no excuse for fraud, and hold dearly (and passionately) to the cardinal rules of journalistic integrity personally as well as for the press...

I realize my comment came off as apologist and I laughed coming back at it because I have long been riotously angry about the corporatization of media. In terms of the Times corporation, in particular (as a native NY-er) I have an old love of the paper and do believe that it still has within its pages many incredibly moral bastions of excellent journalism, both individually and editorially, who do their best amongst the mess.

My questions in response were more general/hypothetical, getting more into the discussion, and also asking if in this age of hyperinformation/misinformation/corporate information and research if there is any gauge other than the individual code for journalistic integrity, seeking out both acts of moral reportage as an act of responsibility for the reader and writer alike....?

Nonetheless I wanted to tell you again that I really commend this article and think it is an incredibly important, pertinant issue -- and a perfect one for this forum. It's hard for me to lose the Times as a blankie... I know. That's nostalgia in its worst form and I have to put it in the attic with everyone else I used to trust. Damn it's crowded up there.

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By Amo on April 02, 2008 at 12:50 pm
I hope I didn’t come off being too strident in my retort, and I do agree in principle that it becomes almost impossible with today’s technology to ferret out, fact from fiction. This forum is an excellent example of how the political landscape has changed. We can write almost anything about anyone, with immunity, and without fear of being caught, let alone challenged, and that’s the issue that faces us today. My fear is that, if we continue with this type of journalistic corruption, we’ll eventually be unable to distinguish between what is true and what is false, worse yet we’ll stop caring Amo
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By L DeSilva-Johnson on April 03, 2008 at 03:53 pm

Hear hear. That's a bandwagon I'll jump on with you, Sir Amo.

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