New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller was challenged Monday night on the paper’s commitment to objectivity, especially concerning opinionizing in front-page articles, in an appearance televised on C-Span, before an audience at George Washington University. About 26 minutes into the wide-ranging journalism discussion, moderator Marvin Kalb challenged Keller.
Kalb: “On the Times you have news and then you’ve got opinion. Now there should be a wall between the two. Your ombudsman Arthur Brisbane says, and I quote, ‘the news pages are laced with analytical and opinion pieces that work against the premise that the news is just the news, unquote. Many conservatives as you well know, criticize the Times as being a liberal, left-wing newspaper, and that those views get into the news part of your newspaper. Why do you allow this to happen?”
Keller: “We don’t allow it to happen. I mean--”
Kalb: “But it happens almost every day.”
Keller: “According to Art Brisbane or according to you?”
Kalb: “No, well, according to people who have read the Times for many many years. There’s more, what I’m getting at here Bill, is that there’s more analysis dipping into commentary and the editorial side of reporting than a straight hard news story.”
Kalb is referring to Brisbane's January 9 column, where he said of a decision to put David Leonhardt's liberal economic analysis on the front page:
It was The Times’s decision to place it on Page 1 that posed the difficulty, sending the message that The Times’s take on health care is synonymous with Mr. Leonhardt’s, which some see as progressive or liberal.