Friday, May 27, 2005

Mark Hyman: Champion of Journalistic Excellence

In his latest “Point,” Hyman joins in lock step with those who hate the New York Times with predictable rhetoric about its supposed left-wing slanting (Hyman and his kooky-con companions seem to have no problem with the ideology of the Wall Street Journal, or the conservative slants of the majority of major newspapers in the country, for that matter).

In this case he cites hostility toward outgoing “Public Editor” Daniel Okrent as evidence of the paper’s bias and lack of commitment to quality journalism.

[Before moving on, let’s formally acknowledge the idiocy of Sinclair Broadcasting, and Hyman in particular, pontificating about journalistic ethics. This is a point that is so obvious I don’t want to belabor it here (see any and all entries in this blog for specifics, if you need them), but I did want to note it for the record.]

There are understandable reasons why Okrent’s tenure at the Times was controversial. He had no experience with newspaper journalism when he took the job, and he’s had a tendency to criticize columnists on the left more than those on the right. In particular, his Parthian shot final column was
disingenuous and unfair in a number of ways.

It’s beyond the scope of this particular entry to get into the nitty gritty of internal politics at the Times. What I want to point out, however, is that whatever you might say about Okrent, he was prescient about how
his words would be used by the far right. He acknowledged that anything he said in the course of his duties as the Public Editor that could be construed as critical of the Times would be seized on by right wing haters of the Times and twisted for their own political use. Hyman lives up to Okrent’s low expectations of the radical right in his commentary.

Of course, Hyman praises Okrent as someone who would stand up for quality journalism at the paper. He specifically avoids
two of Okrent’s most damning criticisms of the newspaper: its failure to adequately cover the story of civilian deaths in Iraq and its woeful coverage of the existence of WMDs in the lead up to war.

Hyman is right: the New York Times does serve as a bellwether for many journalists. And the newspaper’s willingness to buy the Bush administration’s assertions about Iraq and WMDs played a big part in the wholesale acceptance of the neocon case for preemptive invasion of Iraq by the corporate media as a whole. This slanted and biased reporting arguably helped set the stage for needless death and destruction.

Of course, Hyman doesn’t even hint at this. For him, the Jayson Blair issue is the epitome of the consequences of sloppy journalism.

If only that were the case.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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