Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Decline of the NY Times

Relevant Links:

from the Editors' Note:
Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

See what happens when you don't take the time to RESEARCH your stories and sources, but simply accept word-of-mouth or word-of-administration as the next major scoop?

You serve yourself a piping hot plate of crow.

Since the Jayson Blair scandal broke and Howell Raines departed from the New York Times, the paper's reputation has hung in the balance. If you take the time to read the Raines article, you will see that underperformance in the newsroom was something he aimed to abolish. Unfortunately, his mission was thwarted by one particular journalist whose offenses went beyond innaccuracy and reached new levels of dishonesty through plagiarism. Plagiarism, in the pages of the New York Times.

And now this. The recent admission of lazy journalism does not do much to help the paper's cause. While all major media outlets are guilty of drinking the WMD Kool-Aid, the Times should have known better. A paper that was once considered the greatest America has to offer has been disintegrating because it's stopped reporting the news and started regurgitating information. Creating stories based on information from sources who are clearly less than reliable is not JOURNALISM. It's like writing a story on the pit bulls and talking only to people who hear you're writing this story and want to have their sagas of being been bitten by them put in the paper. It's not JOURNALISM, it's taking only what comes to you.

Journalism would have been looking closely enough at the facts, and at the histories of the people surrounding the facts, to figure out that the scoops were possibly part of an Iranian plot to infiltrate the US media and bolster support for war in Iraq. THAT is journalism.

As an aspiring journalist, or whatever I happen to be on any given day, the fact that anyone in the Times newsroom would reach any level below "brilliant" is obscene to me. While they may not be living out their own ultimate dream, think of all the people who spend their life trying to get a desk at the NY Times. It's like a 9 year old Little League player watching his favorite Major League team sit down on the diamond and let the visiting team run up the scoreboard hit after hit. I once thought the NY Times was as good as newspapers can get, and that to be a reporter for the Times was the greatest honor I could achieve. And only genius writing and reporting could get me there.

Apparently, all it takes is being able to incorporate "information" from "sources" into paragraphs of conjecture.

It's sort of like Rolling Stone, which went from the cutting edge writing and actual reporting of the 70s, to the mediocre writing and dumbed down subject matter of the last 10 years. And that was Jann Wenner's doing, in order to make it more marketable to the younger generations, which, judging by quality, Wenner must have assumed were also dumber.

If the Times wants to keep itself from becoming just another media outlet, as it is quickly devolving into, the Editors and leadership at the paper need to take hold of the reins and remember what the New York Times is supposed to be about: ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT.



David said...

Just found your blog. Watch out, I might actually read it! I might have to come up there and bug you and vex and see if I can't make a cameo in your blog.

DavidS, signing off!

Nick said...

Details Emerge on Stint by Chalabi Niece at 'NY Times'

NEW YORK During the five months that Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi's niece, Sarah Khalil, worked for The New York Times in 2003, the reporter who hired her, Patrick Tyler, published nine pieces that mentioned her now-disgraced uncle, according to an article published today by The New Yorker. During this time, she also personally helped Chalabi get across the border from Kuwait into southern Iraq.

aGreatNotion said...

David: kickass. glad to see people are reading!

Nick: that's so disturbing i don't really even want to think about it right now.