Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hyman Hypocrisy

Just a brief note about one of the supposed hypocrisies Hyman featured on his recent “Short Takes” segment: Hyman claims the New York Times is hypocritical because its editorial page has come out against the practice of allowing one company to own two television stations in the same market (a practice made possible by the dismantling of existing regulations and which has benefited Sinclair Broadcasting mightily.

What Hyman fails to mention is that the New York Times’ editorial page is not the tool of the New York Times Company, the corporate entity that owns the Times and many other media outlets. While the owning of two stations in the same market is a bad thing, it’s unfair to criticize the New York Times editorial page for disagreeing with its corporate leaders. This is actually a sign of a (relatively) healthy relationship between the corporate ownership of a journalistic enterprise and the journalists themselves.

It’s the specter of corporate masters forcing their journalists to toe the company line in their reporting that is one of the central risks of media consolidation. Thus far, at least, the New York Times has the independence to take its own editorial positions, regardless of the attitudes of its corporate leaders.

To be fair to Hyman, it’s unrealistic to expect someone like him to understand this, given the corporate climate in which he works (and which, in fact, is responsible for his existence as a public figure). For Sinclair, the idea of separation between journalistic practice and corporate goals is anathema.

Speaking of Sinclair’s lack of sound journalistic practice, I can’t help but notice that Hyman commits an all-too-familiar breach of basic journalistic ethics in his commentary. Whenever a reputable journalistic outlet does a story or editorial that touches on their own business practices, even tangentially, they are ethically obliged to make note of this for their audience, so that they can decide for themselves how much stock to put into a story or commentary that has the potential to be self serving.

What does this have to do with Mr. Hyman? The market in which the New York Times Company now owns two television stations is Oklahoma City. Now, take a wild guess at
what company owns both of the stations that are directly competing with those of the Times Company.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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