August 18, 2006

NYT turnaround.

This morning's NYT editorial page displayed embarrassing overenthusiasm for Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision in the NSA case, saying it was "a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion" that "eviscerated" the administration's "absurd" arguments. This evening, in this article by Adam Liptak, the Times is facing up to the harsh criticisms that in fact rained down on the decision.
Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge’s conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision’s reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.

They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government’s major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.
Read the whole thing. Lots of lawprof bloggers are quoted (but not linked!).


Simon said...

"Only when actual law professors began to dissect the opinion and call it shit, which it is, pardon my non-erudite word choice, is the NYT now having to report about how anyone with any inkling of law understands the decision to be hackwork junk."

Oh, no no no. Let's be more precise about this: it isn't just that any Law Profs "began to dissect the opinion and call it shit," it's that even law profs who categorically believe that the program is illegal "began to dissect the opinion and call it shit." It's one thing when legal conservatives like Eugene Volokh or moderates like Orin Kerr demolish it; but when even Jack Balkin, who's about as much of a partisan for the democrats as you can be and expect to be taken seriously (a bit more of a partisan thatn that some days lately) is saying this opinion is out of order, that's when the NYT has to sit up and pay attention. It's the fact that even those sympathetic to the result think the opinion is gutter trash that has prompted this humiliating volte face.

The Commercial Traveller said...

My question to the many who always go off on it is why read it?
If you need your opinion validated just read the Wall Street Journal editorial page or the Washington Times.

Um, because it's important to read every side of an issue.

And I don't subscribe to the idea that because I don't like what someone else is saying or writing that I should just shut up and ignore it. It is precisely because they are so profoundly and absurdly wrong (and yet so powerful) that I engage with them intellectually.

Plus, if I only engaged with sources with which I always agreed--I wouldn't read or listen to anyone ever--because I'm not an automaton and I have my own beliefs.

If you ever find yourself agreeing 100% with another person or group 100% of the time--then you're either in a cult or you're dumber than a box of hair, or both.

Unknown said...

I think they are at their dark apogee. They have lost the capacity to be embarrassed.

All the familiar tropes are there: "scathing" rather than persuasive language, the myth of the lone moral purist, and naming the true enemy: Mr.(never President Bush...

Unknown said...

Hey now, I dare say that a box of my hair could stand toe to toe with Frank Rich any day. Certainly the box of hair would have more class.

Unknown said...

Though I must say, in the interest of being fair and balanced, that the aforementioned box of hair wouldn't be quite as large as it used to be.

Bruce Hayden said...

One of the big problem at the NYT has been that the editorial and news staffs don't seem to have nearly enough distance between them, resulting in what are closer to editorials than real news stories on the front pages of the newspaper.

So, this may be (but probably isn't) an indication of a change for the better. The paper is on a downhill slide, and it can't help that its editorializing in its news stories has turned it into a laughing stock over the five years or so.

What must be esp. galling to them is that the WaPo is probably almost as liberal in its editorial pages, but has managed to maintain its reputation with its news pages - and, arguably, as a result of that, has garnered some of the NYT's former luster and clout.

Steven said...

boston70 --

Ah, yes, Wisconsin, right-wing heartland, home of the fat ultraconservatives that keep electing the neoconservative Rummy acolyte Russ Feingold.

You know the last time Wisconsin voted for a different presidential candidate than the one for whom Massachusetts voted? Here's a hint -- it was the last time a President carried every state but Massachusetts.

You see, the problem here was not that the New York Times said something liberal. Like you, its problem was that it said something stupid, which is quite different. Praising this opinion as "careful" and "thoroughly grounded" is silly given its actual content, much as dismissing Wisconsin as part of some conservative "heartland" is silly given its electoral history.

Balfegor said...

Re: Bruce Hayden
What must be esp. galling to them is that the WaPo is probably almost as liberal in its editorial pages, but has managed to maintain its reputation with its news pages - and, arguably, as a result of that, has garnered some of the NYT's former luster and clout.

Yes, on this especially, the contrast with the Washington Post was striking. True, it's editorial, and not reportage, so this isn't as bad as the scandals the NYT has had over the past while. But it's still an embarassment to them.

Re: Seven machos:
The Times can say what it wants and we don't have to read it or care about it. (And, soon, if you believe the Michael Wolff piece I read over at Vanity Fair via realclearpolitics, nobody will get to read it.)

Regarding the NYT and Fox news, this is a reasonable approach. But what I think people are getting excited over, when they (incl. me) criticise the NYT or Fox News is the worry that for casual consumers of news, institutions like NYT or Fox will play on an undeserved reputation for impartiality to exercise a disproportionate influence over the public debate. I mean, as far as either goes, you can find news sources much more extreme moonbattery and wingnuttery if you like, but while they attract occasional criticism, it has none of the vehemence or passion behind the attempts to undermine the credibility/authority of the NYT or Fox. It's because those two can play off their credibility (yes, Fox too!) to exercise influence that people get excited.

The Drill SGT said...

Nice work Steven.

On the topic of the WaPo. My home town rag, though we take the NYT because my wife is addicted to the xword puzzles and the travel section. She's a transplanted NY'er. Yes, the WaPo is a liberal paper, but it not knee jerk left wing like the NYT. For example, it took a position in favor of both Gulf wars. It's editorial pages calls the shots like it sees them, but it is reality based (in the true sense). Similarly the columnists and news reporters are a bit more honest, even if they are liberal. Howard Kurtz, our media critic is my particular favorite. Dana Priest and Robin Givens are a story for another day unfortunately.

tjl said...

To Boston70 and others who suggest that those who take issue with the NYT's leftward slant should simply stop reading it -- is there any real alternative? For breadth and depth of its coverage and resources, it has no rival. The lead news stories, of course, you can follow elsewhere, but where else but the NYT can you find such detailed and thoughtful reporting on the arts, economics, travel, etc.

That said, as a lifelong daily NYT reader, it's deeply painful to observe how ideologically driven the paper has become. The NYT was always assumed to be written by and for New York liberals, but before Pinch Sulzberger its journalistic integrity was unquestioned. It's certainly questionable now.

Given the resources available to the editorial board, it's hard to understand how they could have done something so stupid.

The Drill SGT said...

You only have to look at Morningstar stock ratings to see that Captain Pinch has run the old gray lady into a berg. WaPo has a financial health rating of A+ and NYT B-

The Graham family may be liberal, but they can run a business and give honest value. It looks like the WaPo will be here in some form in 50 years. I doubt that about Pinch's crew.

The Drill SGT said...

Lets see, NYT has 12,400 employees and Morningstar rates them as a C for growth at 2% per year and describes them as:

New York Times is a diversified media conglomerate with three business segments: news media, broadcast media, and Properties include The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 15 regional newspapers, and more than 40 Web sites, including The company also owns eight network-affiliated television stations and two radio stations and has ownership interests in several joint ventures.

While it rates WaPO (13,400 staff) as a B for growth at 10% per year and seems to decribre the same sort of diversity found at the NYT:

The principal business activities of Washington Post consist of newspaper publishing (principally The Washington Post), television broadcasting (through the ownership and operation of six TV broadcast stations), cable television systems, the provision of educational services (through its Kaplan subsidiary), and magazine publishing (principally Newsweek magazine).

They look pretty much the same except the WaPO works.

Brent said...

Boston 790, et al:

Here is the BIG PROBLEM with the New York TIMES.

---it's not that it is a liberal paper with liberal editorializing in its articles, which it certainly and unashamedly does.

--- it is that the TIMES does not exist in a media vacuum. The TIMES, because of its size, location, and (previous) reputation, influences what every other major media outlet chooses to report. The major networks, all with 10 - 20 times the viewership of Fox News, decide their nightly newscasts on that morning's TIMES headlines - they have publicly stated such. The networks not only follow the TIMES choices of news subjects, they also follow the same angle slant on those same subjects. So, you have the (entirely justified) cry of "monolithic media slant". The MAJORITY of media outlets - those with the most number of viewers/readers - not only don't play it down the middle, they follow the TIMES choices, leading to a "MAIN STREAM MEDIA" (MSM)that tilts liberal. Of course, you can find exceptions to the above, but you cannot find enough exceptions to change the fact that the MSM overall tilts left.

--- Therefore, if the TIMES continues to have such outsized influence, IT IS a concern to those that don't appreciate the discussion waters having already been peed in by a supposedly balanced "news" source.

And . . . Frank Rich was an excellent media critic, and just like most media critics, he is completely in over his head when he comments on politics. How's that?

Harry Eagar said...

I'm a newspaper reporter, though not at The New York Times, and the reasons nobody else but an ombudsman responded are two:

1. None of those items has any relation to whether a reporter is a good reporter or not. One of the best reporters I've ever worked alongside never finished high school.

2. Nobody in the business takes ombudsmen seriously.