Feature

A whistle-blowing ombudsman: Proof The New York Times has a liberal bias?

The Grey Lady's internal watchdog says its staff has a hive-like worldview that "bleeds through" its coverage, tilting its stories in favor of progressive causes

Arthur S. Brisbane, the departing ombudsman of The New York Timesargues in his final column that the paper's liberal worldview colors its news coverage and favors progressive standpoints over conservative ones. Brisbane says The Times treats the Occupy Wall Street movement and gay marriage "more like causes than news subjects," thanks to the paper's hive-like atmosphere of "political and cultural progressivism" that is "powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds." Brisbane notes that The Times' believability rating has "dropped drastically among Republicans compared with Democrats," and warns the problem will only worsen as the internet lets users ever more easily seek out news coverage they agree with, creating a liberal bubble incapable of reaching the other side. Jill Abramson, the executive editor at The Times, rejects Brisbane's "sweeping conclusions," arguing that the paper has always tried to report it straight. Does Brisbane have a point?

Yes. Brisbane is stating the obvious: Give Brisbane "credit for the ability to recognize the paper's obvious liberal bias," says Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. His column "is another benchmark in the confirmation of The Times' ideological tilt," and it's clear those in charge "are still in a state of denial about it." Abramson's "lame" response shows there's "no hope of correcting the corrosive and all-pervasive liberal bias in the Grey Lady on her watch."
"Stating the obvious about NY Times bias"

No. Brisbane's evidence is shaky: All Brisbane has done is throw out "another lazy and unsupported allegation of media bias," says Erik Wemple at The Washington Post. For example, the Times hardly treated the Occupy Wall Street movement as a cause — in fact, Times writers either ignored or disdained the event until it became too big to ignore. "Documenting media bias is difficult work," and "requires going through, in this case, hundreds upon hundreds of stories, flagging instances of attitude and possible slant, weighing the mass and comparing it all against the work of other publications." Brisbane, unfortunately, didn't do his job.
"Brisbane hammers NYT for 'progressivism,' Occupy bias"

And citing GOP dissatisfaction means little: Brisbane's most ludicrous charge is that The Times "is somehow failing readers because polls show that Republicans now give it lower credibility ratings," says Greg Mitchell at The Nation. "As if the increasingly fact-adverse GOPers would ever give high marks to a largely reality-based media." The Times should not set its standards by those who "prefer the fantasies and truthiness of talk radio and Fox [News]."
"Public editor's parting shot at 'NYT': More blather about 'liberal bias'"

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