Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sentiment of the Times: Sympathy for the Devil

Interesting dissection of the cues, miscues and sentiments of the New York Times by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal today.

As to the paper's revelations on how the U.S. intelligence community has been tracking terrorist financial transactions, I can only ask "what were they thinking."

I get the impression that if the current editors of the Times were running the paper in 1944, the headline on June 5 would have been "Allies To Invade Normandy Tomorrow!"

6 comments:

Craig Bob said...

OK, ok. Now I know that you believe in accountability. So without the press revealing that kind of government activity how would you envision holding government accountable?

JBlog said...

Spare me, Craig. This is not about holding the government accountable -- it's about selling newspapers and pursuing a political agenda.

And if you believe otherwise, I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in.

There is a central role for the media to play in holding the government accountable.

But when you start publishing the details of active intelligence programs designed to stop the enemy -- as in, the people trying to kill us -- the line has been crossed.

The editors of the New York Times are so rabid in their hatred of George Bush that they are actually willing to jeopardize the lives of Americans by giving this information to the enemy. That's horrifying.

Craig Bob said...

Where is the line you refer to? (The one you believe the Times crossed). Did they cross it with the Pentagon Papers too?

JBlog said...

The fine line, I think hinges on a couple of things, at least in this case:

1)Is there any evidence -- real evidence, not partisan opinion and bombthrowing -- to indicate some illegal has occured that the American public was intentionally deceived?

2)Will revealing the information hinder legitimate intelligence gathering and jeorpadize our ability to stop our enemies from killing us.

In the case of the Pentagon Papers -- which, incidentally, were primarily about the conduct of the Vietnam War by the Johnson Administration -- you could certainly make the first point. The records indicated an active effort to tell the public one thing about the war and prosecute it another. And no information that would jeopardize American lives was released.

SB said...

I have to be forthright with the fact that I don't know enough about the lines that are or are not being crossed to be able to weigh in on that part of your conversation. But I'd like to add this: journalism in the U.S. is driven both by bottom-line profits and by a noble idealism to inform the citizenry. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Often political agenda gets into the mix too. Ideologues swallow everything that pours out of their preferred pipelines. People who want a more balanced picture have gotten used to consulting a polyphony of sources and correcting for whatever spin is in play.

JBlog said...

Well, speaking as someone who has worked for and with the media for more than 20 years now, I can tell you I see less and less of that noble idealism all the time.

As individuals, most journalists I know are primarily interested in furthering their own careers. The way you do that is by getting scoops and exclusives, and if someone gets hurt in the process, well who gives a golly-gosh darn.

Most would not intentionally lie or fabricate a story, but they often see the story through their own bias and present the facts that support their conclusion, particularly if it makes the story juicier.

Unfortunately for all of us, most people aren't turning to a polyphony of sources for their news and information, much less reading the original texts and source materials behind the stories to find out what they really say. Their turning to one or two sources they trust (whether they're trustworthy or not).

And unfortunately for the Times, less and less of the time are they one of those trusted sources.

It seems ironic that the Times would stoop to this at a time when the public trust in the media is at an all-time low, but then the Times has a bit of a tin ear when it comes to understanding the value and importance of the public trust.

For an inside perspective on the Times, the way it works and its political agenda, I'd suggest you read some of the columns by former ombudsman Daniel Okrent, particularly the one titled "Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?"

The first sentence is "Of course it is."