August 20, 2013

Michael Kinsley asks NYT executive editor Jill Abramson whether there's an ideological bias in the paper's news articles.

I know, you can't expect her to admit it. But the way she avoids admitting it is fascinating:
Um, I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan outlook that reflects that, even as we become international, we’re a New York–based news institution. 
"They" = a genuinely objectively reader. (Kinsley actually posited "someone from Mars," which is a silly image, since such an entity, even assuming he could read English, would lack the cultural reference points needed to understand what our various ideologies are and how they are expressed subtly in text written in a superficially neutral style.)

Abramson's answer is to say, essentially, what seems like a liberal political bias to folks who don't live in New York is really simply our sophistication. She goes on:
I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may to some people seem to reflect a liberal point of view. But I actually don’t think it does....You can verify that in news meetings I sometimes say, “This is skewed too far to the left,” or “The mix of stories seems overweeningly appealing to a reader with a certain set of sensibilities and it shouldn’t.”
Too far.... Overweeningly.... These words seem to let it slip that, of course, the Times is liberal, but not all that much. Kinsley then says that to him it feels like "a sort of Upper-West-Side sensibility, and the politics that go with it," and Abramson tells him that's his perspective.

As long as we're talking about perspectives.

And doesn't it really all depend on where you're looking from?

29 comments:

Jason said...

I forget who said it first, but asking a journalist about liberal bias is like asking a fish about water.

FleetUSA said...

The press has long ago forgotten that the news is supposed to present the facts. Editorials and Op-Eds can do all the sermonizing they wish.

great Unknown said...

So...hardly the "newspaper of record."

Or even a "newspaper of record."

Just a local tabloid.

RecChief said...

yes. "your perspective" "her worldview" "their opinion" it's really all relative.

But great Unknown is very close to the objective truth

Mitch H. said...

Ma'am, would you describe your paper's bias as "rootless cosmopolitanism"?

Nah, I kid, I kid. Although it's nice to see a New Yorker admit her hopeless provincialism like that.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

Back when New York had about a dozen daily newspapers, the saying was that the Times was written for the readers between 35th Avenue and Soho. Nowadays it's written for the readers between the 35th floor and the top of Times Building.

Terry said...

Cosmopolitan?
Like Birmingham, Alabama?

lgv said...

I believe the Martians have been listening to plenty of our conversations and they would believe that the Times really does have an ideological liberal bent.

Times writers have "sensibilities" unlike the neanderthals that inhabit the flyover states. That's why it seems skewed when it really isn't. Amongst the population with normal sensibilities, the Times is smack dab centrist in its outlook.

So, yes, it really depends on where you're looking from...Well, at least according to JA.

An accent isn't an accent to the local population. It's everyone else that has an accent.

Eric said...

I wouldn't mind the left bias if they were honest about it. What makes it especially obnoxious is their apparent belief is that they are actually objective and that what a reader might see as bias is simply a reflection of the poor reader's lack of intelligence and sophistication.

Eric said...

I wouldn't mind the left bias if they were honest about it. What makes it especially obnoxious is their apparent belief is that they are actually objective and that what a reader might see as bias is simply a reflection of the poor reader's lack of intelligence and sophistication.

RAS743 said...

"...The New York Times remains the only major paper in the hands of a storied publishing family. ..."
"Storied" is it? Does Kinsley mean like all those "legendary" (in their own minds) newspaper people -- you know, "Abe" and "Punch" at the NYT and "Kate" and "Ben" at the WaPo? And who bestows the adjectives? Why the media people themselves, of course. "Mirror, mirror, on the wall... ." Self-referential, self-congratulatory, narcissistic -- and intellectually dishonest to the bone. And we wonder why the quality of the political discourse in this country has sunk so low. No mystery, really. Who's on Capitol Hill? Who's at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? And, just as important, who's in the newsrooms?

wildswan said...

Why do they avoid admitting it? Isn't "liberal" good? Time was the NYT would have been proudly "liberal." But "liberal" is a certain orthodoxy now (abortion, climate change, towering debt won't harm anyone, teachers unions are good, democrats can assault women freely, etc.). It isn't a contradiction or a questioning and it doesn't allow contradiction or questioning. And so a liberal paper now won't admit they are a liberal paper. "We are centrist though you might note a certain sophistication, a global note, in how we" cover up for Filner or whatever.

YoungHegelian said...

I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan outlook...

Isn't what's really sad about this interview is that even with someone who is as experienced and "nuanced" as Michael Kinsley as an interviewer, the editor-in-chief of the NYT responds to this question with an answer that would be disappointing if you heard it from her when she had a martini in one hand and an hors d'oeurve in the other at a cocktail party. It's like this thought or seemingly any other has never even crossed her pretty little brain.

I think a lot of what underlies the anger of the Left (the Occupy movement) & the Right (the Tea Party) is what worthless shits our Ruling Classes really are.

chrisnavin.com said...

Feminism/toadyish ideological commitment to most Democrats and all things 'women' without much skepticism-check

Climate change and top down planned economic policy to curb climate change and ideological commitment to green anti-humanists if need be-check

Nationalized/Socialized medicine if need be-check

New Urbanism/bike paths/hipster collectivism/top down rationalist planning of people's lives within apostmodern soft collectivism-check

Civil Rights train logic of progress & freedom towards pure equality & democracy born partially out of the New Left 60's alliance-check

Vague one-worlderism and liberal internationalism no matter how impractical on the world scene-check
------------------------

This ain't your parents liberalism, and it's not going to lead to too much objectivity at the Times.

All the News Fit To Print.

Hagar said...

"The view from 9th Ave."

Darrell said...

They've been spouting the same stuff forever. When Ted Koppel used to talk to the CBS head and the editors of the big newspapers, they always said that they were just urbane and educated. The opinions they held were those of urbane, educated people. If those didn't agree with your positions, perhaps it was time for you to reflect on YOUR life.

JackOfClubs said...

"Sophisticated" is too evaluative a term. You might just as easily say "sophistry" if you wanted to turn it negative. But there is a correlation between big-city attitudes and liberalism. Big cities tend to be impersonal because it is simply impossible to know everyone you meet, and to be dependent on one-size-fits-all services, because it is more efficient in a large population. On the other hand small towns tend to be more personal and self-reliant. But this does not let Abramson off the hook because newspapers are supposed to correct for their biases, regardless of their cause.

Kirby Olson said...

The New York Post is far more reflective of the real New York City.

Marty Keller said...

Well, yes, of course Jill & the Gang have a particular perspective; we all do. The distinction comes when some of us pretend to have a different perspective from the one we actually have. That moves us from journalism to the world of B. T. Barnum.

Peter said...

"View of the World From 9th Avenue"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steinberg_New_Yorker_Cover.png



Michael K said...

My difficulty with these people is that, if the left is correct on its issues like global warming, "stimulus" spending, racism everywhere, gay rights above all others, why can't they assume that any educated person, given the truth in an unbiased way, will come to the same conclusions ? It's not enough to accept the good will of others who don't agree, they must demonize us and our opinions.

I can only talk to one of my three left wing children about any of these topics. She is the youngest and I know disagrees with me but she is at least polite.

tim maguire said...

Liberals are utterly incapable of seeing liberal bias.

The reason is simple: liberalism isn't a bias, it's just plain common sense. Almost by definition, only conservatism is a bias.

The Godfather said...

Way long ago, in 1964, I could rely on the NYT to provide accurate coverage of the Goldwater campaign in their news pages, while severely criticizing his positions in their editorials.

What's changed over the past half century is that liberalism has lost its self-confidence. The conventional wisdom has been (and is being) challenged. Sixteen years after Goldwater, Reagan was elected. Now the liberal approach is not to refute conservative arguments, but rather to assert that those arguments are illegitimate, that they reflect racism, classism, devious efforts to empower the powerful (the 1%) at the expense of "the people", etc. Those who disagree with the NYT (and with those readers to whom it is directed) are not wrong, they are evil. This fits in very well with the New York elite's long-standing contemptuous attitude toward the rest of the country.

Is Abramson REALLY unaware of what she's doing? It seems hard to believe that someone intelligent could be so self-unaware, but remembering "1984" makes it easier to believe that she is.

Steven said...

'Cosmopolitan', by definition, isn't a view based in any particular place. An outlook that is obviously 'New York-based' is the very embodiment of provincial.

Henry said...

I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may to some people seem to reflect a liberal point of view.

Or, quite often, utter lack of intensity. When the dog doesn't bark in the night: there's the clue.

sean said...

Jill Abramson spoke at my daughter's graduation. What a boring egotist! If offered a chance to hear her speak, don't.

John said...

The quote claims she said:

"Um, I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan..."

What she actually said was:

"UmImmmthinkmmmhatmmmtheymmmwouldmmmrecognizemmmammmsortmmmofmmmcosmopolitan..."

Fry, princess, fry

John Henry

Hyphenated American said...

Does this self-proclaimed cosmopolitanism explain their support of Moslem brotherhood? O more generally, does it explain their support of Stalin and Mao in the past, and refusal to talk about the holocaust during ww2?

Sam L. said...

Jill is not going to blow her alleged 'cover' as "objective".