In an eyebrow-raiser, New York Times head editor Bill Keller writes a letter to his own paper, lambasting a recent Sunday Book Review by U.S. Court of Appeals judge and law professor Richard Posner, a catch-all review of several books positing media bias on both left and right (including a favorable nod to ''Weapons of Mass Distortion" by MRC President Brent Bozell).Keller claims Posner's "market determinism" ignores the dynamics that make papers like his great, such as "the competitive gratification of being first to discover a buried story," which no doubt explains the Times' wall-to-wall-coverage of the Air America scandal (where it's been beaten locally by the New York Post, the New York Sun, and the New York Daily News).Keller may be mad because the libertarian Posner is most convinced by arguments suggesting a liberal bias in the media. From Posner's opening paragraph: "Liberals, including most journalists (because most journalists are liberals), believe that the decline of the formerly dominant ''mainstream' media has caused a deterioration in quality." Keller preens over his paper's "high-minded," "ambitious" journalism: "First, and weirdly, [Posner] makes almost no distinctions within the vast category of American media, between those that are aggressively partisan and those that strive to keep opinion sequestered from news, between outlets that invest in serious reporting and those that simply riff on the reporting of others, between the sensational and the more high-minded, between organizations that hasten to correct errors and those that could not care less, between the cartoonish shout shows on cable TV and the more ambitious journalism of, say, the paper you are holding in your hands. Then he swallows almost uncritically the conventional hogwash of partisan critics on both sides: that 'the media' (as accused from the right) work in tireless pursuit of a liberal agenda, and that they have (as accused from the left) become docile house pets of the Bush administration because they fear offending the powers that be."For examples of the Times' impressive "sequestration" of opinion from news, check out Times Watch's report on the paper's coverage of the "unsubstantiated" allegations of the Swift Boat veterans for Truth, a term the Times never once used to describe Democratic allegations that Bush was AWOL in Vietnam.
NYT's Bill Keller Preens Over His Paper's "High-Minded" Journalism
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.