October 8, 2006

When journalists express an opinion.

The NYT's "Public Editor," Byron Calame, writes about the dispute that arose when Linda Greenhouse -- the NYT's Supreme Court reporters -- gave a speech that revealed some of her personal political opinions.
[She opined that the government] “had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world, the U.S. Congress, whatever. And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.” She later added, “I feel a growing obligation to reach out across the ridiculous actual barrier that we seem about to build on the Mexican border. ...”

The Times’s ethical guideline states that news staffers appearing on radio or television “should avoid expressing views that go beyond what they would be allowed to say in the paper.” It is obvious, I think, that the guideline also applies to other venues. And Bill Keller, the executive editor, made clear in an e-mail message to me that the standard applies to all Times journalists “when they speak in public.”

It seems clear to me that Ms. Greenhouse stepped across that line during her speech. Times news articles are not supposed to contain opinion. A news article containing the phrase “the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism” would get into the paper only as a direct quote from a source. The same would go for any news article reference to “the ridiculous actual barrier” on the Mexican border.
Calame notes the "muted" reaction from the management of the NYT and says that Greenhouse told him that "she considers her remarks at Harvard to be 'statements of fact' — not opinion — that would be allowed to appear in a Times news article." Statements of fact? With words like "assault" and "hijacking"? The contention that these are "statements of fact" bothers me more than the disclosure of personal opinion.

The Times has its policy constraining the speech of journalists, and as Calame notes, an interest in avoiding "giving the paper’s critics fresh opportunities to snipe at its public policy coverage." If the management of the Times has decided to let the incident pass, he says, it has accepted this risk. Then maybe the question is whether the policy should be reframed, so that it explicitly permits journalists to speak more freely. Calame thinks not.
[J]ournalism [is] a calling ... that requires sacrifices and special obligations. Keeping personal opinions out of the public realm is simply one of the obligations for those who remain committed to the importance of impartial news coverage.
Here's NPR's coverage of the story, which includes links to the audio and the text of the Greenhouse speech. She speaks with fervor and conveys a sense of personal expression, and the audience responds to that. It's an extremely well-done speech, and the problem is only about the Times's specific policy and journalistic ethics more generally. The NPR webpage quotes Daniel Okrent, the first NYT public editor:
He says he is amazed by Greenhouse's remarks.

"It's been a basic tenet of journalism ... that the reporter's ideology [has] to be suppressed and submerged, so the reader has absolute confidence that what he or she is reading is not colored by previous views," Okrent says.

Charges of media bias are routinely thrown at the Times and other media outlets, from both the left and the right. Okrent says he never received a single complaint about bias in Greenhouse's coverage. He wonders whether journalists really need to smother their private beliefs to be fair in their articles.
Greenhouse's speech didn't seem that out of line to me, because I am so used to hearing law professors express all kinds of personal and political opinions about the Supreme Court, and, obviously, I do it all the time myself. I'm trying to imagine a law school where the professors felt they needed to make sacrifices and suppress and submerge their opinions. Actually, it's a scary place! Do you really want us to become more devious? (Recall the discussion here a few months ago about an op-ed by Stanley Fish about whether teachers need to exclude their political opinions from classroom teaching.)

When I read journalistic writing, I always assume the reporter has political opinions, and I try to figure out what they are. Both Okrent and Calame make a point of praising Greenhouse for reaching a high standard of neutrality in her journalistic writing. But that shouldn't make anyone think she doesn't actually have opinions. It just means you'd have to do a very sophisticated analysis to figure out if any of her opinion finds its way into her presentation of the complicated statements of Supreme Court justices (which are themselves carefully written to exclude the appearance of personal opinion).

So I'm not disturbed by what Greenhouse said in her speech, and I think Okrent is right that reporters can have a little more freedom than the official NYT policy seems to require.

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader reminds us of the longstanding term "Greenhouse effect," referring to the tendency of judges to become liberal over time as they frame opinions intended to please the NYT. Here's a recent use of the term:
"The Greenhouse Effect" is the name of a phenomenon popularized by D.C. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman referring to federal judges whose rulings are guided solely by their need for adulation from legal reporters such as Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times. The idea is that once confirmed, justices become desperate to be invited to the right cocktail parties and conform their views to those of the liberal intelligentsia....

The problem with this theory is that it accepts a great conservative fiction: that there is vast, hegemonic liberal control over the media and academia. This may have been somewhat true once, but it's patently untrue today. Jurists desperate for sweet media love can hop into bed with the Limbaugh/Coulter/FOX News crowd. Clarence Thomas has made a career of it. There is a significant and powerful conservative presence in the media, inside the Beltway, and in academia. And my own guess is that Federalist cocktail parties in D.C. are vastly more fun than their no-smoking/vegan/no-topless-dancing counterparts on the left.
That last bit fits with this thing I said yesterday. Most women don't find topless dancing to be vastly fun, though, and the way of thinking about fun that is so thoroughly from the male point of view that it doesn't even notice that it's forgetting about how women feel really doesn't seem likely to produce more fun for women. Or is that the point? Conservative men have more fun at parties because they don't worry so much about what women think.

74 comments:

Sean said...

There are lot of differences between reporters and law professors. For one thing, law professors have a very limited interaction with their customers, the students. I can't imagine how a law professor's political views would color his or her grading of the typical torts exam. But this woman is a Supreme Court reporter. Given her evidently rather jejune beliefs about Roe v. Wade, how can we trust her to report fairly and accurately on the issues in future abortion rights cases? (Now you might say, only an idiot would form his or her views on any legal issue based on what's in the New York Times, but that's a different argument.)

Also, it's a marketing question. Fundamentally, law professors are selling an entry ticket to a lucrative profession. If I had a con law professor who gave speeches like Ms. Greenhouse's, and then asked exam questions about abortion, I would of course parrot her views back to her. It wouldn't cause me not to go to law school. But a person who buys a daily newspaper (as opposed to the Nation or the Weekly Standard) is paying for unvarnished and impartial facts. If the person doesn't think he or she is getting his or her money's worth, the person will stop subscribing.

The Drill SGT said...
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The Drill SGT said...

I'm disappointed in Greenhouse. Though I know that most journalists are left of center and many far left of center, I expect them to be professionals and not allow their personal views into their professional lives.

I was a professional soldier. While on active duty, I seldom heard one of my superior officers express an opinion about politics beyond "those dumb SOB's in Washington". I NEVER knew the registered politics of any officer, and I NEVER heard anybody talk about who they were voting for. And we were very big about encouraging everybody to vote, typically absentee. There was a professional rule that we did not ever talk religion or politics. I know that standard has slipped in recent years, and that is a mistake the profession of arms will live to regret.

Ann, I don't have the same perspective on law profs or doctors. I guess I would not mind if she were expressing her view on an area that she didn't cover (e.g. a foreign correspondent who has a public opinion on abortion, or a city reporter that has an opinion on the war. In Greenhouse's case however, she is directly revealing her opinions and biases on the topic she covers. No, no. I previously respected both Greenhouse and Taylor, from now on, I am reading her work with with much more of a jaundiced eye.

Ann Althouse said...

"from now on, I am reading her work with with much more of a jaundiced eye"

My point is that you should have been doing this all along.

Sean said...

But, Prof. Althouse, if Linda Greenhouse is selling the same thing that you are selling, i.e., work that doesn't purport to be impartial, why would anyone pay for her work? I think that is why the Times has the policies it does, and that its stockholders will have cause to regret the abandonment of those policies. (Alas, most of the stockholders don't get to vote.)

Roger Sweeny said...

Your opinions determine which stories (and which parts of stories) you think are important. They affect how you structure a piece, what facts you think are relevant, who you quote and which quotes you choose (often the ones that make your opinions look correct and reasonable and reflect the opposite on those you disagree with).

Pretending reporters have no opinions is fraud. It is a more polite version of "astroturfing," the creation of "grass-roots" organizations by established groups who want to hide their attempt to influence public policy. E.g., when drug companies form Americans for Medical Progress or environmental groups make Citizens for a Clean Environment. (Those particular example are made up.)

It is impossible--impossible, impossible, impossible--to write a story that is completely impartial. The best you will get is some sort of bleached-out, edges-sanded-off conventional wisdom. Which will, of course, reflect the opinions of the conventionally wise.

tjl said...

It's not realistic to expect that any reporter, much less a NYT reporter, won't have personal political views. I suspect that the main reason why people choose a career in journalism in the first place is their strong interest in public policy.

The question is where to draw the line. An alumni forum is not the same as "Good Morning America." Greenhouse must have felt that in Cambridge she was "entre nous" and didn't need to retain her mask of objectivity. As her reporting so far avoids the NYYT's recent tendency to views-as-news editorializing, I don't think Greenhouse has committed a major transgression.

Ann Althouse said...

Sean: "But, Prof. Althouse, if Linda Greenhouse is selling the same thing that you are selling, i.e., work that doesn't purport to be impartial, why would anyone pay for her work?"

I can't accept your "if." I'm employed as a law professor because I can claim to be able to teach about law, not my personal opinions. The question is whether knowing I have personal opinions undermines the value of the presentation or whether I can be trusted to teach people about law, which is what they come to law school to learn about about. I also need to be trusted to grade exams fairly, and grades have a huge impact on a law student's career. So I certainly am "selling" something that purports to be impartial.

dick said...

My problem was not knowing how Greenhouse was marketed on the speech. If she was marketed as a NY Times reporter and then gave that kind of speech, that is one thing. If she was marketed as Linda greenhouse, a reporter, that is another thing. In the case of the second she would be looked on as giving her own opinions and what she said would be just fine. In the case of the first she would be looked on as a representative of her newspaper and that is not fine when she gives out opinions like the ones she gave. Also if she were marketed as a NY Times reporter, then the NY Times should have been all over her for giving that kind of speech when she was representing them, particularly when the newspaper tries to portray itself as giving us all the news that is fit to print.

jinnmabe said...

I'm employed as a law professor because I can claim to be able to teach about law, not my personal opinions.

I'll grant that may be how you or your administration views it, but the students have a much lower expectation of impartiality.

I'll agree with Sean and say that expectation is much lower than the readership of the NY Times, outside of the opinion section.

I also agree with you that any reader of the NY Times should read with a more jaundiced eye (especially "objective reporting" type stories).

Gahrie said...

There was a time not so long ago that our newspapers did not pretend to be objective. Everybody knew which paper supported which ideas, and you bought he one you agreed with. Hell, during our country's founding, it was not uncommon for our leaders to begin publishing news papers and pamphlets to spread their views and openly slander their opponents. (although this was sometimes risky as you could be challenged to a duel)

Today most news outlets pretend to be objective. Does anybody doubt that NPR and the NY Times are liberal?

I say let us get rid of all the pretense, and put it all out in the open.

altoids1306 said...

The NYT could save itself a lot of hand-wringing if it would simply throughly disabuse its reporters of any "higher calling", not try to change the world, and just report the damned news.

At the very least, do not omit facts that might undermine your desired opinion.

Since neither of these two things will happen, I look forward to the decline and dissolution of the NYT.

Doug said...

I prefer when reporters make their political affiliations known. Then we don't have to put up with the little dance/lie that they tend to do when questioned about it, with them claiming: "I'm an independent". When Dan Rather appeared at a Democratic Party function years ago, there could no longer be a dispute about what side of the political spectrum he is positioned.

I think her leanings were pretty well known , it isn't like there are a ton of people who buy the Times and think they are getting a right wing slant, unless they are very far left. Also, there is a theory known as the Greenhouse effect, which tries to answer why some Republican appointees tend to drift towards the left. It is argued that they try to impress Greenhouse with their opinions, and to do so, they need to move towards her camp. I am neither a lawyer nor a court watcher, so I don't know if this is a valid point, but it does point out that her liberalness is well known.

PatCA said...

What Gahrie said.

It's only since Woodward and Bernstein that journalism has acquired this burnished priestly aura.

Of course Greenwood believes her statements to be statements of fact--one need only read page 1 of the NYT to see the results of this thinking.

I know people who accept the words of the NYT and LAT as truth in the absolute. When I tell them that of course it is good to be skeptical of the government but also good to be skeptical of newspapers, they look at me with glazed over uncomprehending stares.

Not only is it foolish to assume objectivity, it is dangerous for the republic.

Adam said...

Here's the thing: Linda Greenhouse has demonstrated for decades that her reporting and analysis itself is pretty objective and thorough. Whatever her views were, they didn't affect the quality of her writing.

noah said...

My memory may be faulty but didn't Greenhouse make a bunch of hyperbolic and clearly partisan statements in print about the Hamdan decision?

noah said...

A foolish objectivity is the hobgoblin little minds!

Ann Althouse said...

Jinnmabe: "I'll grant that may be how you or your administration views it, but the students have a much lower expectation of impartiality."

You're kind of missing my point. I have opinions and the students know it, but I am still trusted to present the material and be reasonably fair to the different positions represented in the cases. I'm capable of explaining the material, including things I don't personally like. I think there are some law professors who don't do that, by the way. For example, there are lawprofs who will teach a Scalia opinion by saying little more than something like, "Well, it's Scalia, what do you expect?" I have no problem restating the substance of the different opinions as strongly as if I were the Justice who wrote it. In fact, it is my style to do exactly that.

Ann Althouse said...

Adam: "pretty objective"

That says a lot.

Anonymous said...

Note that the "opinions" are not expressed as "opinions." They are expressed as eternal verities she holds and that anyone that disagrees with is prima facie evil.

She is not biased. She has an ironclad worldview, as impervious to discussion as any mullah. She sees herself as a crusader for what is "right." That's fine, but used to be confined to the editorial page. Now the editorials are on the front page, and the editorial page is reserved for Kevin Barrett grade musings.

The puerility and over-arching nature of her actual worldview, and infantile method of turning it into a unassailable POV is nicely summed up with the "whatever" in the middle of it. Think about that remark. "Whatever' means "I'm not bothering to listen to you." Terrific credential for a reporter, there. Stop talking so I can say what I'm going to say anyway.

She is baldly stating that she's not interested in the worldview held by the majority of the electorate she ostensibly reports "news" to. She literally is constitutionally incapable of reporting news, and is announcing that to any who would listen.

Her employers are simply telling her to do it, not talk about it.

I'm likewise amused by the idea that the same three names can always be trotted out to show the balance available to the worldview manifested in every major newspaper and television station in the country.

Yeah. CLarence Thomas can be called an Uncle Tom on every media outlet in the country, but he can go on a buffoon's opinion show between the static and the Gold Bond commercials and everything's even-steven.

When he's done, perhaps he can make a speech at Columbia -- if he likes pie.

Sean said...

O, Prof. Althouse, I see that I was very ambiguous and have been misunderstood. I meant that if Linda Greenhouse is selling the same thing that you are selling here in your blog, i.e., an interesting set of personal opinions with no pretense of objectivity, why would anyone pay for hers? (Yours are so much more interesting.)

DRJ said...

Rather than a law professor/reporter analogy, I think it would be more appropriate to analogize Supreme Court reporters with the Supreme Court justices they report on. Law professors are supposed to teach on these subjects and often use personal attitudes and anecdotes to explain concepts. Students learn early on which professors allow open debate and which don't.

If a justice could ethically say what Linda Greenhouse said and still be considered impartial, then she should be able to speak out, too. Neither the justices nor reporters surrender their free speech rights at their employer's door, but the appearance of impartiality is nevertheless important to both professions.

Maybe, as Prof. Althouse suggests, we would be better off knowing the biases of the justices and the reporters. I certainly support transparency in virtually all facets of modern government and life. Nevertheless, as long as we believe we are a nation of laws, not men, I think our courts (and those who report on the courts) should continue to embrace the appearance of impartiality.

George said...

From My Grandmother's Attic:

Friday, 10 p.m. June 8, 1968

Star Trek

Tonight’s Episode:
“I Shall Be Merciful…and Quick.”

Salt-sucking space vampire (Nina Totenberg) snoggs it up with Dr. McCoy (James Carville) during a dilithium crystal-meth “Festival” on a planet ruled by a babbling ghostly white rabbit, Martin Jorma Landru (Rush Limbaugh). Meanwhile, to obtain favorable coverage in the increasingly snippy New Federation Times, Kirk (George Will) and Nurse Chapel (Ariana Huffington) must press their extremely girdled torsos together and communicate their thoughts to the oily Gorn captain (Bob Woodward) without moving their lips.

Tim Sisk said...

I think journalists should stay away from voicing their own particular political views. It is part of the vocation as a reporter that they voluntarily give up political involvement. My profession as a clergy puts the same limitations upon me (though many of my colleagues either don't agree with me or aren't practicing what I am preaching.)

I understand that reporters will have opinions and political views. And I suspect they are revealed in a thousand different ways in despite their best efforts to be objective.

I also suspect my bishop votes a different way politically than I do. But if my Bishop were to drop to all pretense to voicing political views, I would doubt that my bishop was committed to her profession.

Or more to the point: If Linda Greenhouse can be so impassioned about particular political views that would cause her to violate professional ethics by revealing them, then I would question her commitment to her ability or desire to objectively report (i.e. her professionalism).

And personally, I do think it is a bit unseemly for law profs to be heavily involved in the political process. Although their imparitialy isn't nearly as damaging to their professional, vocational responsibilities. It just devalues the education they provide. Law school education is a professional education that differs from a lot of other disciplines.

JimK said...

"Conservative men have more fun at parties because they don't worry so much about what women think."

I don't mean to be a jerk here by pointing this out, but...How is this not both an overly-partisan and a sexist observation?

Fenrisulven said...

The problem with this theory is that it accepts a great conservative fiction: that there is vast, hegemonic liberal control over the media and academia.

No, its called Shared Values. Geese don't conspire to fly south for the winter. Ask any acolyte why they want to be a journalist, and most often you hear "I want to change the world". That leads to agenda-driven reporting.

Harry Eagar said...

I've been a newspaperman for 42 years.

Believe it or not, newspaper readers want to know the opinions of reporters, especially this time of year. I cannot walk down the street without being asked how I think the county elections are going to go.

They never ask me, though, how I want them to go.

It's a fine line. If you couldn't test it, there'd be little point in going to hear a newspaper writer speak about what he writes about. Greenhouse went way over, I think.

Now, to disabuse the conservatives of one of their cherished beliefs, especially Drill Sgt.

Newspapers are a smorgasbord. All kinds of people go into the business for all kinds of reasons.

I once worked for a redhot liberal sheet (on its editorial pages). Funny thing, though, about the newsroom. Among the 140 news side employees, we had three ordained ministers (one R.C., two United Methodist), and during a period of six years had three reporters or editors resign to enter the seminary.

Plus hosts of deacons, church organ players etc.

I never worked with any saints yet, although one of my colleagues did go out as a mass murderer.

Fenrisulven said...
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Fenrisulven said...
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Fenrisulven said...

gah...

Newspapers are a smorgasbord. All kinds of people go into the business for all kinds of reasons.

As do Marines. But finding a liberal Jarhead is just a difficult as finding a conservative journalist.

Aprrox 90% of journalists vote Dem

Jeff said...

Sippican and Fenrisulven are my personal heroes today.

Brent said...

As someone who has posted in Althouse comments 11 times previously about the BIAS of the NYTimes, I think that my comment here may surprise you:

Linda Greenhouse is probably the best overall reporter on the Supreme Court to be found anywhere.

She is obviously biased to the left . If anyone, such as Adam above, believes that she plays it down the middle in her reporting, they are pretty close to being a lost cause.

As a conservative, I have no problem with her being left-leaning and still being a reporter for the New York times or whomever.

Just tell the Times to be be UPFRONT about it!

That is all!

vnjagvet said...

Linda Greenhouse has made her personal views known in many ways. She, like Anthony Lewis before her, has presented as a relatively orthodox liberal. But her analysis is generally well-written and interesting.

Her preaching-to-the-choir Harvard speech surprised no one that has been following her reporting over the years.

I don't think it was harmful to her reputation as a serious, able legal commentator or to the reputation of the NYT.

Ann Althouse said...

JimK said..."'Conservative men have more fun at parties because they don't worry so much about what women think.' I don't mean to be a jerk here by pointing this out, but...How is this not both an overly-partisan and a sexist observation?"

You should read that statement of mine as positing an answer to the question I found implied by the opinion piece I cited, and therefore as a critique of the opinion piece, not as my own free-standing assertion. Essentially, if you think the answer to the implied question is wrong, you should be against the statement in the opinion piece.

Steven said...

Most women don't find topless dancing to be vastly fun, though, and the way of thinking about fun that is so thoroughly from the male point of view that it doesn't even notice that it's forgetting about how women feel really doesn't seem likely to produce more fun for women.

I note that while we associate the term "topless dancing" with women dancers, there is no technical reason why this should be so. And Chippendales dancers are certainly topless.

jinnmabe said...

I once worked for a redhot liberal sheet (on its editorial pages). Funny thing, though, about the newsroom. Among the 140 news side employees, we had three ordained ministers (one R.C., two United Methodist), and during a period of six years had three reporters or editors resign to enter the seminary.

Plus hosts of deacons, church organ players etc.


So, 6 out of 140 is supposed to prove that news organizations aren't overwhelmingly left-leaning? I'm not a statistics major but that seems to support the left-leaning theory.

Not to mention that the fact they were ministers, deacons, etc. is a complete non-sequitur to the question of whether they're left-leaning. You've never met a liberal religious person?

JimK said...

You should read that statement of mine as positing an answer to the question I found implied by the opinion piece I cited, and therefore as a critique of the opinion piece, not as my own free-standing assertion. Essentially, if you think the answer to the implied question is wrong, you should be against the statement in the opinion piece.

Ahh...OK. That makes sense. My apologies for misunderstanding.

George said...

Harry--

As another poster above already said, poll after poll after poll shows that a ridiculously high percentage of reporters vote Democratic.

Saying that some of your colleagues became United Methodist ministers doesn't support your case. I'm a Methodist, and, boy, are my denomination's official stands on many national issues extremely liberal. Extremely.

Most of the most influential major media outlets in newspapers (NYT, Post, USA Today), TV (3 nets), and magazines (Conde Nast, Esquire, Time Inc., RS), and NPR swing left. That's why Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" punch line is so knee-slappingly funny. It's the longest running practical joke in American history. A cream pie in CBS's eye.

The Drill SGT said...

I agree with drj. I think the SCOTUS Justice analogy is much better than that of a law professor. Journalists like to claim that they are the 4th estate, virtually a co-equal branch of government, entitled to numerous special privileges emanating from the penumbra of the Bill of Rights. Noblis Oblige, with privileges come responsibilities. One is fair and honest reporting (distinguished from editorial positions). Linda crosses the line when she make public speeches that demonstrate her clear opinions and biases on areas that she writes on professionally. She is not a columnist or editor. She is supposed to cover her SCOTUS beat in a fair and balanced fashion.

Similarly, I have no respect for the entire class of people (googled for 8.5 million hits) who call themselves "Social Justice Journalists". An example:

Ms X is a 28-year-old social justice journalist from Hartford, CT (yeah, many of you drive by there and don't bother to give the Hartbeat a try). She has a Master's Degree in Human Rights from Columbia University,

One might as well call yourself a "propagandist". Somebody who comes to work with a clear bias write news that promotes one agenda over another, is not a journalist IMHO.

Simon said...

I agree with Gahrie and Doug. I think it's a ludicrous pretense for anyone to express shock that Linda Greenhouse has these views. Value freedom is impossible, it infects every aspect of the work of a journalist and a media outlet, from which stories they choose to how they choose to report them, where the emphasis is placed, who they interview. The media is riddled with bias, and worse yet, it is the soft bias of people who do not know that they are biased - it is the bias of people who think that they are just applying common sense to a problem, blisfully ignorant that there is no such thing as a value-free common sense independent of the political construct. It would be far better to just get everyone's views out in the open, so that then, the next time the commenter makes a snide remark about Hamdan or so on, we can dismiss it as the partisan attack that it always has been.

Ann Althouse said...

JimK: Sorry to make it that enigmatic. I ought to have put a question mark at the end. (It was clear in my mind though!)

vnjagvet said...

For the fifty years I have read the NYT, I have understood that it was the voice for establishment liberalism. While its news pages attempted a somewhat balanced approach, on political and foreign policy matters, its writers were and are to the left of the political spectrum.

During the Vietnam war, Bernard Fall, and other NYT newsmen made clear their disapproval of the Johnson Administration's policies.

On the Cold War, the NYT had a number of news writers whose stories disclosed their belief that US policy was unduly harsh on the Soviets and their allies. In their view, the Europeans and the UN's leadership were invariably more correct than our foreign policy apparatus.

The point is that nothing much has changed in fifty years. Greenhouse is liberal. But the NYT is liberal. What do you expect?

Fenrisulven said...

The point is that nothing much has changed in fifty years. Greenhouse is liberal. But the NYT is liberal. What do you expect?

After 50 years, maybe an admission that they are Leftist propaganda organ.

vnjagvet said...

Fen:

The NYT suffers from the same problem its writers do.

It and they believe they are representing the views of their "educated", "informed" and "sophisiticated" readership.

"All the news that's fit to print", doncha know.

Henry said...

The only surprising thing about this to me is how commonplace Greenhouse's personal opinions are. For an obviously smart woman, she's either a thoughtless parrot of the silk-stocking point of view or is shamelessly pandering to her Harvard audience.

"And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."

After this line, I almost expect her to say something like "And let's not forget how stupid those fundamentalists are, either. Go Crimson!"

Seven Machos said...

I don't think Greenhouse has ever done a very good job of hiding her opinions in her writing, or that it takes any kind of spophisticated analysis to figure out what her opinions are.

Having said that, I don't have a problem with the leftism of The New York Times, or any other well-written, interesting writing.

The problem is that they really seem to believe that they are pulling off objective reporting. Either that, or they are lying when they say they strive for objectivity, just as much as FOX is surely lying when it claims to be "fair and balanced." FOX is a good balance against other media outlets, but it certainly isn't itself objective. How can anyone who selects facts to report and leaves others out be considered remotely objective?

Harry Eagar said...

jinnmabe, 6 out of 140 may not show that newsrooms have a good share of political conservatives, but it does show that newsrooms have a good share of social conservatives.

What's the percentage in whatever organization you work in? I bet it's a lot less. A sawbuck says it's zero.

I'm not sure how anybody knows how newspaperment vote. I certainly don't know how my colleagues vote.

If they tend to vote with the blue collar masses, which I suspect they do, it's because it's a blue-collar job.

John in Nashville said...

"Most women don't find topless dancing to be vastly fun . . ."

I did not know that most women had even tried topless dancing, let alone formed an opinion about whether it is vastly fun.

Simon said...

Harry Eagar said...
"jinnmabe, 6 out of 140 may not show that newsrooms have a good share of political conservatives, but it does show that newsrooms have a good share of social conservatives."

That is a red herring. As Jinmabe pointed out, having six members of staff who have graduated from or left in order to enter seminary may establish that you had six people of faith out of a staff of 140, but freestanding, at most, that proves nothing more than that six people felt the call of the cloth in their lives. It does not establish that they were conservatives - of any stripe - and even if it did, if you think that having six conservatives on a staff of one hundred and forty creates a political balance, you are perfectly exemplifying the mindset that leads the New York Times to conclude that it isn't really a bastion of liberalism.

Liberals are fond of talking about "diversity"; I wonder: if you had a staff of 140 and 6 of them were black or latino, would you claim to have a racially diverse staff?

Fenrisulven said...

If they tend to vote with the blue collar masses, which I suspect they do, it's because it's a blue-collar job.

Huh? Journalism and reporting is hardly a blue-collar job. They don't even move in the same circles. And I think most of blue-collar "masses" would be insulted to be grouped with reporters.

Harry Eagar said...

The party of the haves and have mores is never going to attract a lot of newspapermen.

Revenant said...

Greenhouse told him that "she considers her remarks at Harvard to be 'statements of fact' — not opinion

That's the only part of this scandal that seems particularly bad. Greenhouse was always suspected of having fringe leftie beliefs -- knowing for certain that she has them is a good thing and not, in my opinion, a bad.

But her tacit admission that she can't distinguish between facts and opinions would seem to disqualify her from working as a reporter.

DRJ said...

Harry Eagar,

Can you clarify how you went from "Newspapers are a smorgasboard" (10/8/06 @ 2:53 PM) to "The party of the haves and have mores is never going to attract a lot of newspapermen"(10/8/06 @ 11:45 PM)?

Fenrisulven said...

Harry Eagar: The party of the haves and have mores is never going to attract a lot of newspapermen.

Do you really believe this or are you just a propagandist? I would think that, of anyone, a journalist would know that wealth in this country is evenly divided between the Left and Right.

The Left only cares about wealth disparity as a means to engage in class warfare. You just did it here.

Maybe you should stop. Your slips are reinforcing the stereotypes I hold re "journalists".

Anon Y. Mous said...

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Minneapolis Star Tribune's Eric Black on this topic on Friday. Transcript:

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=e9d7a060-c87e-4e54-885a-a6692135f760

Black tried to make the argument that reporters need to keep their biases concealed, but Hewitt would have none of it.

Fenrisulven said...

Ha. Nice link. Eric Black reminds me so much of the people Ransom hung around in C.S. Lewis's Pelandra[?] series [the faculty]

Fenrisulven said...

No, it was in That Hideous Strength. The faculty disemble so much that lie becomes truth, dark become light, depavity becomes virtue.

I need to make time to read C.S. Lewis again.

George said...

There's a priceless interview of Chris Wallace in the NYT Mag. with Deborah Solomon.

Her questions:

"Do you think it was fair for you to mention that [Clinton's administration] had failed to capture Osama bin Laden?"

"Are you friends with Bill O'Reilly, the station's emblematic conservative personality?"

And, best of all:

"But why go to Fox News, of all channels, which has been criticized for having a conservative bias?"

I love the phrase "of all channels." It makes her sound like a biddy from Gone With the Wind, having an attack of the vapors.

tjl said...

"The party of the haves and have mores is never going to attract a lot of newspapermen."

You must be referring to the party of John & Theresa Heinz Kerry, Ned Lamont, Jon Corzine, and Ted Kennedy - ably assisted by George Soros, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, and much of the have-more demographic.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, George. I didn't open the magazine yesterday. I'll do a post on that.

Richard Dolan said...

Greenhouse is a pretty good reporter covering the SCOTUS; her summaries of the opinions in a major case are generally reliable. None of her personal opinions in her speech was suprising; all of them are utterly standard-issue NYT-think. So what else is new?

Given her beat, I don't see what all the fuss is about. If anyone is interested in what the SCOTUS has said, you can always just go to their website and read the opinions for yourself. The opinions are usually posted on the same day they are released to the public. Even the transcripts of oral arguments are posted online within a day or so of the argument. The ready, and rapid, availability of the original material is cure enough for whatever problem Greenhouse's having strong personal opinions may inject.

I thought the most interesting comment in this string was Sippican's catch about the use to which Clarence Thomas can be, and always is, put in these discussions by lefties. The NYT should bless the day he was confirmed -- he is and always will be their perfect whipping boy. If he hadn't been confirmed, they would have had to invent him (Bork wouldn't have been bad for their rhetorical purposes, but Thomas is so much better).

Fitz said...

“The problem with this theory is that it accepts a great conservative fiction: that there is vast, hegemonic liberal control over the media and academia. This may have been somewhat true once, but it's patently untrue today. Jurists desperate for sweet media love can hop into bed with the Limbaugh/Coulter/FOX News crowd. Clarence Thomas has made a career of it. There is a significant and powerful conservative presence in the media, inside the Beltway, and in academia.”

Oh….things are a little better, but any cursory glance at independent fair studies show that liberal orthodoxy still reigns over elite sectors of opinion.

Who would want to jump in bed with “Limbaugh/Coulter/FOX News crowd” a A.M. talk radio jock, a polemicist, and a single cable news station that pales in absolute numbers compared to all the other new outlets.

Prestige has a lot to do with it, the Manhattan, L.A. Washington elites are overwhelmingly leftist/liberal. As are the major metro daily papers. Most importantly in the considerable power of our nations most prestigious universities. Its no mistake the Linda Greenhouse felt secure in airing her “factual” views at a place like Harvard.

You have to be rather obtuse to not see the heavy weight an influence wielded by establishment liberalism. Upstart conservatism is still a minor force in influencing elite opinion. It really a populist voice for those conservative Americans who feel marginalized by the hegemonic control of societies intellectual and chattering classes.

How is this not obvious?

Harry Eagar said...

'How is this not obvious?'

Well, do what I did a couple weeks ago: walk into a bodega in Long Island City and look for the Times.

Nada. (No Sun or Journal either.)

News was there. Post was there.

The oddest thing about this whole rightwing fantasy is that the rightwing simultaneously accepts and condemns the Times's view of its own status.

Isn't Ralph Peters capable of playing in the big leagues?

Even his fans seem to think not.

Atticus said...

I get much of my news from NPR. NPR leans left, so why am I not also left-leaning? Because left-leaning NPR still does a bang-up job with the news. Because I listen with my own biases.

Same argument from the other side: I dislike watching O'Reilly...so why am I still a conservative? Because I watch O'Reilly with my own ideas still operating.

Many people work under the assumption that *I* can listen to NPR without falling prey because I'm so smart...but the rest of you dolts probably believe every little thing NYT and NPR say. Let's not do that. Assume instead that people who listen to the news lean their own direction no matter where they get their news.

Fitz said...

“The oddest thing about this whole rightwing fantasy is that the rightwing simultaneously accepts and condemns the Times's view of its own status.”

Yes we do: we accept that (generally speaking) conservative media inhabits the “low-brow” spectrum of journalism. At the same time we condemn the fact the NYT constantly paints conservatism as not being in the “big leagues” (intellectually) as establishment liberalism.

The hinge is the Universities. Conservative though, instincts, worldview & understanding are not present on campus. This has become a self-fulfilling prophesy as conservatives depart for business opportunities or think tanks & journals. Meanwhile the university faculties are driven further to the left by their ideological purity.

The cream of the crop at the nations Ivy leagues end up with an education in the parameters of “enlightened opinion” that says “break the P.C. mold at the risk of your own career & social reputation”.

Now know body wants to get Borked & everyone has a penchant for vanity (especially intellectual vanity among our “best & brightest”) All this is echoed back as self – justifying the opinion that we “enlightened few” deserve to rule over the backwoods conservatives.

It takes courage to face down the establishment. It takes valor to hold opinions important and influential people consider repugnant. It takes real spine to question the dominate paradigm presented to you everywhere from your campus culture, to the great grey lady.
This doesn’t mean liberals are wrong and conservatives are right. (Necessarily)

It does mean that Marx was right when he talked about “the commanding heights of culture”.

Fenrisulven said...

Assume instead that people who listen to the news lean their own direction no matter where they get their news.

Sure, but don't you wonder how much of your opinion has been influenced by fake AP photos and fake CBS docs?

Atticus said...

I imagine my take on the news has been influenced by the reporter's bias about as frequently as my take on the news has been influenced by the sermon I heard on Sunday or by my reaction to a bad radio voice or by how it syncs up (or not) with what I've read on the blogs. TV news doesn't influence me because I don't watch it. I suppose I've gotten nudged in one direction or another sometimes but my general direction hasn't changed. Do you find it difficult to filter out a reporter's bias?

Coco said...

"Sure, but don't you wonder how much of your opinion has been influenced by fake AP photos and fake CBS docs?"

In the worst possible scenario - about .001%? I'm not worried about that...at all. But I am worried about people who think such events taint the entirey of the thousands and thousands of news articles produced by a media outlet. I'm not actually worried about such people, they are just irrelevant to me and serious discussion.

I don't see the value of news reporters being transparent in their political views. It would only lead me to self select news stories from certain reporters on certain issues and reduce my critical reading (and thinking). Better to critically examine everything you read. The mask of journalistic objectivity certainly doesn't block out all biased light but its still much better than no protective layer at all.

Harry Eagar said...

'It takes courage to face down the establishment. It takes valor to hold opinions important and influential people consider repugnant. It takes real spine to question the dominate paradigm presented to you everywhere from your campus culture, to the great grey lady.'

Oh, please. It takes 25 cents to buy the Daily News. That's all.

The complaint that 'they made me read the Times' is not the cry of the dauntless jouster for truth.

Revenant said...

"Sure, but don't you wonder how much of your opinion has been influenced by fake AP photos and fake CBS docs?"

In the worst possible scenario - about .001%?

Hm. Perhaps better question is "can you, like most people, often accept what you hear on the news as probably being true -- without bothering to independently verify it through other sources?". Because if the answer to that question is "yes", a lot more than 0.001% of your opinions are based on false information received through the news. You don't even have to posit a left-wing conspiracy -- reporting isn't a job that attracts the best and the brightest, and they're paid for articles and stories that sell, not articles and stories that are scrupulously accurate.

But in any case, even if you personally are hardly affected by fake news at all, "0.001%" is about four orders of magnitude too low as an estimate of the percentage of people who still believe the "Rathergate" memos were real.

jinnmabe said...

Another problem with thinking you can always filter any newscast through your own biases and come out unscathed is that a lot of the bias manifests itself in what isn't broadcast or printed. Unless you're doing your own independent research on every story you hear, your own biases might tell you "you're only getting one side of the story here" but they can't tell you what they other side of the story is.

rightwingprof said...

Yes, Dr. Althouse, but do you present your opinion as if it were fact?

That, I think at any rate, is the issue, both with the Greenhouse kerfluffle and the whole academic freedom argument (which I maintain has nothing whatsoever to do with academic freedom): Presenting one's opinion as if it were fact.

rightwingprof said...

Have a manual trackback!

Harry Eagar said...

Revenant, you may be right that 'reporting isn't a job that attracts the best and the brightest,' but it is impolite to say so on Professor Althouse's blog, because an awful lot of reporters have law degrees.

I don't, but at one paper where I worked the top four editors were all lawyers.