July 8, 2008

Why did the NYT Magazine flatter Rush Limbaugh? The cowards!

Ezra Klein is bent out of shape:
[T]he Times appears to have challenged itself to write 8,000 words on Limbaugh without saying anything that could be even remotely interpreted as critical. It's perfectly clear why: The article begins with one of Limbaugh's assistants snarling to the reporter, “Are you the guy who’s here to do the hit job on us?” The Times wanted to prove Limbaugh's staff wrong, so they wrote a puff piece. See? Liberals can be fair and balanced too!
Why would writing something completely unbalanced be a demonstration of balance? But I agree with Ezra that the tone of the article reflects the Times self-interest. My guess would be that the NYT would love to get more readers, and Limbaugh has the power to send 20 million people its way.

But the article isn't doing well on the Times's "most emailed" lists. I'll bet most regular readers, like Ezra, were disgusted that the article didn't trash Rush. Then again, the articles that do well on the "most-emailed" list tend to be articles about what to eat and how to get along in a relationship. Sex and food — that's what NYT readers care about the most.

On the other hand, the Limbaugh article is second on the NYT "most blogged" list (covering the last 7 days). In fact, the "most blogged" list is completely different from the "most emailed" list. The blogging list is full of political articles. Does that mean bloggers care more about politics than about food and sex? Or maybe it's just that political bloggers get ideas from NYT articles and sex-and-food bloggers get their ideas somewhere else (including from their personal life). Another explanation is that the kind of readers who go for sex-and-food material are not into blogging. They just forward email to friends and family.

33 comments:

Simon said...

"Then again, the articles that do well on the 'most-emailed' list tend to be articles about what to eat and how to get along in a relationship. Sex and food — that's what NYT readers care about the most."

See revealed preference.

MadisonMan said...

If you've peeved at an institution that makes money through advertising, I'd say the best attack would be to ignore it. But then bloggers wouldn't have anything to write and a quiet blogger is a blogger that people don't visit.

Joaquin said...

"I'll bet most regular readers, like Ezra, were disgusted that the article didn't trash Rush"

Trash Rush! More than he's already been trashed! How can that be possible?

Spread Eagle said...

Trash Rush! More than he's already been trashed! How can that be possible?

Maybe the strategy of the NYT was to do something bold and innovative: do a story on Limbaugh without trashing him.

Stephanie Carnes said...

Klein says, "It's perfectly clear why: The article begins with one of Limbaugh's assistants snarling to the reporter, 'Are you the guy who’s here to do the hit job on us?' The Times wanted to prove Limbaugh's staff wrong, so they wrote a puff piece."

He left out the "assistant's" [Snerdley's] "emphatic laughter." I don't think the writer was intimidated into writing nice things about Rush.

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

Poor Ezra--suppose he is feeling a little contract envy because he hasnt nailed down his 400 Million?
Limbaugh is an entertainer who manages to get the rubes on both sides of the political spectrum all exercised. Gets those liberals lusting after fairness doctrine so they can get government support for what they can't gain in the public market. Mr. Klein is representative of the rubes on the liberal side who take Limbaugh seriously. Fools.

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jdeeripper said...

Ezra Klein is up on the top of the list of males who are evidence in favor of "The Revenge of the Nerds" theory of life, politics and blogging.

Mickey Kauss refuses to do a bloggingheads with him for fear that Klein's supernerdotosis might infect him.

My guess would be that the NYT would love to get more readers, and Limbaugh has the power to send 20 million people its way.

Hmm, where have I notice that technique before........

..the articles that do well on the "most-emailed" list tend to be articles about what to eat and how to get along in a relationship.

Chic-lit.

On the other hand, the Limbaugh article is second on the NYT "most blogged" list..

And the difference is probably gender. Bloggers are mostly blowhard males or masculine women.

Blogging is a kind of shouting, e-mailing is more of a whisper.

Steve Sailer once made a comparison between the male love of the open space views of golf courses versus the female preference for enclosed garden space.

Like the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights versus being back in Madison.

It's like hunting versus gathering. Or maybe visual porn versus romance novels.

Blogging would be more confrontational and competitive versus e-mailing which would be more helpful and informative.

The one more masculine and the other more feminine. So you would expect some difference in what people blog about versus email.

Maybe if Carlin had lived longer he would have developed some material on the difference between these forms of communication.

Quayle said...

I think that in the last fifty years, we have all been brainwashed by the media into thinking that the media is somehow an indispensable part of our constitutional framework.

But the newspapers have always been for-profit, capitalist entities that tenaciously defended their dominant positions to make money.

Charles Foster Kane was right all along when he said, ‘The people will believe what I tell them to believe, and if I lose a million a this year and a million next, I’ll only be able to keep going for another 60 years.’

Now the major papers are losing closer to a million a month, and the reserve millions are almost gone. Finally the press is exposed for what it has always been – a money making enterprise to the core, operating under the false cover of a noble and indispensable part of our democracy.

And we the people no longer believe what they tell us to believe.

jdeeripper said...

Roger J. said...Mr. Klein is representative of the rubes on the liberal side who take Limbaugh seriously.

I think "Mr. Klein" is Ezra's dad.

Salamandyr said...

I got the impression that the author came to the interview with the normal preconceptions about Limbaugh and thereafter got charmed. The article seemed to always have and aura of "wow, he's not as villainous as I thought he was" throughout.

Of course, that's a bit why I liked the article. Profiles are always better when the author likes the subject, regardless of whether they agree.

John Stodder said...

The piece stayed away from name-calling. It didn't call him a pill-popper or use the other ad hominems that the left likes to use as a substitute for due consideration of opposing arguments.

However, I thought the stuff about Rush's house made him look like a cartoon character. I mean...Versailles? A giant self-portrait? The most telling rap against Limbaugh is his bloated ego, and this story nailed that, I thought.

Some of the obsessed politicos need to learn journalism categories. This was a feature article -- a personality profile. It wasn't intended to either promote or refute Limbaugh's politics and it wouldn't have been nearly as interesting if it had been. This was the kind of story that Clay Felker would have commissioned for the old New York magazine, or that Rolling Stone might have run in its better days. It would have been redundant to use it to tee off on his politics. Most NY Times readers already have a Pavlovian hatred of Rush. The editor of this piece told the writer, "tell me something I don't know about him," and that's what we got. Kudos to them.

Klein is such a putz, such a pissant! Why is he respected? He's barely out of knickers.

Host with the Most said...

What John Stodder said

Host with the Most said...

Or maybe it's just that political bloggers get ideas from NYT articles

Ann, don't you remember the old saying:

"The New York Times can't control what you think, but it does control what you think about".

Palladian said...

"Klein is such a putz, such a pissant! Why is he respected?"

I suspect it's because he's cute and he gives great head.

William said...

Perhaps the article wished to highlight Limbaugh's antipathy to McCain in the most favorable setting.

ricpic said...

The tragedy of life is that the period of great sexual athleticism comes before the brain has congealed enough for thought...or maybe it's the comedy of life.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Out here in the wilderness the NYT is actively advertising a three day weekend package, and giving free copies to college students and professors.

They are lowering themselves to market to the rural rabble!

save_the_rustbelt said...

The left has irritated me by giving Klein some sort of expert status on health care issues, when he has no real background in health care.

It is too easy to become an "expert" in the Internet age.

BillHall said...

Rush is an affable buffoon, and as such, I am glad that he rarely purports to represent my point of view. Anyone who takes him seriously is being seriously taken(in). lol

Randy said...

Kudos to John Stodder for nailing it so well!!!

Save the Rustbelt asks the question I'm tempted to ask whenever I run across something written by Klein. For someone who is a supposed expert on healthcare, more than a few of his comments demonstrate a decided ignorance or misunderstanding of actual practices.

These days, I just think of Klein as yet another one of those tiring pseudo-intellectuals who are convinced that they know what is best for the masses whether the masses like it or not, and that they are the ones who should be amply rewarded for giving it to them.

As for Limbaugh, I've never been a fan but I've always thought of him as an exceedingly good entertainer.

nrn312 said...

Charles Foster Kane was right all along when he said, ‘The people will believe what I tell them to believe, and if I lose a million a this year and a million next, I’ll only be able to keep going for another 60 years.’

Just for the record, Kane was a fictional character.

Roger J. said...

Klein is 24 year old with a BA in political science from a cal school--he's not an expert in anything.

Quayle said...

Fully acknowledged, Kane was fictional.

The implied sub-point is that even a movie character of a previous era "got it" about newspapers more than we seem to get it as real people in our modern time.

Quayle said...

But the sled was non-fictional.

sandy shoes said...

"Why would writing something completely unbalanced be a demonstration of balance?"

It isn't, of course. I think the point is that "fair and balanced," since Fox News started squawking it, has ceased to mean either.

blake said...

Just for the record, Kane was a fictional character.

Only just barely.

Kirk Parker said...

"What John Stodder said"

Well, except for the "out of knickers" part.

Randy said...

True, Blake! William Randolph Hearst definitely thought it all much too close for comfort.

blake said...

Where Welles went wrong, IMHO, is by attacking the girlfriend. It was really uncalled for. (Not that, from a cinematic standpoint, it matters particularly. But from a just don't-be-an-asshole standpoint, it does.)

Corky Boyd said...

Why did the NY Times publish an uncritical article about Rush? For the same reason CBS News asked him on in the early days of Katie Couric.

They have analyzed who reads the Times and found conservatives/Republicans have abandoned them. Their circulation numbers are tanking, their advertising revenue is down nearly 10%. And don't think they are unaware of the 600 pound gorilla, the WS Journal, now under the helm of conservative Rupert Murdoch. They are head to head competition with a 2 to 1 circulation lead.

At least the Times is smarter than CBS News. CBS ran three anti-Bush, anti-war hit pieces in the first three segments the evening Rush was on. Looked like the producers didn't agree with the decision to let Rush intrude on their "sacred" airspace.

It's too late for the Times. It's too late for the Ochs-Sulzberger clan. They lost their credibility in the last 6 years. No amount of Rush will make up for Jayson Blair, Risen's NSA busts, naming KSM's interrigator and on and on. We don't forget.

Pinch will be allowed to stay on through the election, trying his darndest to swing it to the Democrats. Then will come crunch time. And there will be change.

There's not a lot to keep the Times afloat. They have sold off their profitable TV outlets to raise cash. They found the Boston Globe unmarketable at less than half of what they paid for it. And it is a major drag, losing even more circulation and revenue than the Times.

Look for changes at the Times. New "partners" and top level management upheavals.

It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.

Kev said...

This thread is probably over, but I had to chime in on something that came to mind when reading the comments.

I think "Mr. Klein" is Ezra's dad.

Heh, I get the joke (cf. John Stodder's "out of knickers" downthread), but in all likelihood, Roger J. used "Mr. Klein" because we're discussing a NYT story, and they're forever using those ridiculous honorifics.

Why are they ridiculous?

1) They clutter up the writing.

2) Some poor copy editor has to go in and append them to everyone's last name in wire stories, letters to the editor, etc. Surely they could find a better use for this person's time.

3) Some people don't deserve the courtesy of such a title. A murderous terrorist shouldn't be called "Mr. bin Laden." A serial killer shouldn't be called "Mr. Bundy."

4) Sometimes it just is ridiculous. My hometown Dallas Morning News, which uses the honorifics everywhere except the sports section, has referred to schlocky saxophonist Kenny G as "Mr. G" and cartoon pizza mouse Chuck E. Cheese as "Mr. Cheese" (which would be a more appropriate title for Kenny G, but that's my own bias showing).