Politics

08.27.12

On The Times' House Liberalism

Chatterers are chattering about the exchange between outgoing NYT public editor Arthur Brisbane, who has a truly excellent name, I've always thought, and editor Jill Abramson over whether the paper is liberal. He says:

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

She says:

I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base. But I also often quote, including in talks with Mr. Brisbane, another executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, who wanted to be remembered for keeping ‘the paper straight.’ That’s essential.

You know what, people? Most journalists are liberal! Young people who are interested in going into journalism tend to be liberal. They don't care about making money. They want to take on authority and comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and all that hoo-ha.

In other words, journalism attracts liberal-minded people. So what? It's just the nature of the way things are. Conservatives need to deal with it. It ain't gonna change any more than MBA programs are suddenly going to be full of leftists and fashion institutes are going to be overrun by football players. I wish liberals didn't wring their hands over this so much.

Liberal bias exists mostly in presumptions about story selection, and mostly off the capital-P Political beat. But when it comes to those Big-P Political stories, reporters and editors at the Times and NPR and other places that are culturally liberal institutions do try hard to be balanced. Too hard in my view, since they end up giving equal time and seriousness to representatives of a political party that's gone way off the deep end.