Fox on the Run: NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller's Long History of Trashing His Rival
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s latest sniping at Fox News garnered some unsympathetic media attention. Keller told a New York college audience March 3 that "I think if you're a regular viewer of Fox News, you're among the most cynical people on planet Earth. I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than 'Fair and Balanced'.”
The Daily Beast media reporter Howard Kurtz questioned Keller’s judgment, but also inaccurately stated that “The executive editor of The New York Times doesn't generally engage in trashing other news organizations. So Bill Keller caused quite a stir when he unloaded on Fox News.”
In fact, Keller has eagerly and consistently attacked his rivals at Fox News since he replaced Howell Raines (who has also viciously attacked Fox News) as executive editor in July 2003.
Here’s Keller in the April 25, 2010 Times, reviewing a biography of publisher Henry Luce.
By the time of his death, in 1967, that consensus had been torn asunder, and today there is no vehicle, no voice with the coherent power of Luce’s magazines in their heyday. The last of his breed of media tycoon is a 79-year-old Australian billionaire whose impact has been more corrosive than cohesive.
That "Australian billionaire" would be Rupert Murdoch, who, for the record, is an American citizen.
Here’s Keller from the week of January 30, 2009, providing a satirical “day-in-the-life” vignette in an online Q&A session at nytimes.com:
Lunch at the Four Seasons is always a high point. Today it's my weekly tête-à-tête with Bill O'Reilly. He's really not the Neanderthal blowhard he plays on TV. He's totally in on the joke.
Here's Keller on an extended anti-Fox rant on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” on September 1, 2004:
Fox is an interesting question. There is a kind of unspoken non-aggression pact among media that they don't beat up on each other. Fox tends to be the exception in our business. You know, John Carroll, who is the executive editor, basically holds my job at the Los Angeles Times, gave a speech in the spring, and most of which was devoted to Fox News. And in there he argued that what they do isn't really journalism, it's pseudo-journalism, and he defined a number of characteristics that meet his standard of what is journalism, including making a real effort to correct your mistakes when you are confronted with them. And he said that Fox doesn't meet that test. I have to say that, as somebody who watches Fox from time to time, I agree with him. I think there's a lot more heat than light generated by Fox News and it's obviously, it's a free country, you know, they can put what they want on the air, but it feels like it's my business, because I think there's a general cheapening of the discourse, the political discourse in this country and I think Fox is a contributor to that.
More recently, Keller appeared on a January 31, 2010 panel with Marvin Kalb at George Washington University.
I think the effect of Fox News on American public life has been to create a level of cynicism about the news in general. I think it has contributed to the sense that ‘they’re all just, you know, out there with a political agenda, Fox is just more overt about it.’ And I think that’s unhealthy. I think Fox has also raised, we have had a lot of talk since the Gabby Giffords murder, attempted murder, about civility in our national discourse, and I, you know, make no connection between the guy who shot those people in Tucson and the national discourse. But it is true that the national discourse is more polarized and strident than it has been in the past, and to some extent, I would lay that at the feet of Rupert Murdoch, yes.