Clark Hoyt is the New York Times’ third public editor and by far its worst.
The position of public editor was created after the Jayson Blair scandal, where a minority reporter was coddled and criticism of his questionable stories ignored. The scandal exploded in 2003 when a former coworker complained he had plagiarized her stories. She was proven correct and a subsequent investigation showed almost half of Blair’s most recent stories were fraudulent. The two top editors of the Times resigned and the committee investigating the breakdown recommended the position of public editor be established to prevent further journalistic lapses. The first was Daniel Okrent who did a decent job but never fully felt his oats until his final column which was his best, including tidbits such as these:
Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales "called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint' " nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. And this: Last July, when I slapped the headline "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" atop my column and opened the piece with the catchy one-liner "Of course it is," I wasn't doing anyone - the paper, its serious critics, myself - any favors. I'd reduced a complex issue to a sound bite. And this: Reader Steven L. Carter of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., asks, If "Tucker Carlson is identified as a conservative" in The Times, then why is "Bill Moyers just, well, plain old Bill Moyers"? Good question.
Byron Calame, was the next and a true professional. As his two year stint went on, he became even better. He publicly called Publisher Sulzberger and XE Keller to task when they refused to discuss the timing of the Risen and Lichtblau story on warrantless eavesdropping. He eventually deemed the Times wrong for its story (buried it at the end of his article) exposing the sharing of European SWIFT banking data with the US. But his best was the evisceration of a NY Times Magazine pro-abortion piece accusing El Salvador’s courts of sentencing a woman to 30 years in prison for having had an abortion. She was in reality convicted and sentenced for infanticide of a fully born and breathing infant, which testimony and the court’s decision sustained. And a fact the Magazine editors missed.
While Calame was doing his digging on this story, rumors began to circulate inside and outside of the Times’ newsroom that he would be fired and/or the public editor’s position eliminated. You can sense the hostility he encountered by reading his description of the stonewalling and denial from senior editors. But he survived to complete his term.
Then came Clark Hoyt. His almost weekly columns are filled with interviews with senior editors justifying all sorts of controversial stories. There are puff pieces on the Times’ fairness in the number of stories given to the different political candidates. On occasion he will plead guilty for the Times for an inconsequential faux pas, such as the Times having been duped, along with hundreds of other papers, by a photographer who claimed to have taken the famous picture of John John Kennedy saluting his father’s casket.
But when it comes to the more substantive items, such as publishing the name of Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s interrogator, despite pleas from the CIA Director for his safety, the Times is always right.
Two recent ones got my blood boiling. They were the Times’ justification for publishing photos the bodies of Marines killed in combat and rationalizing the lack of interest and coverage of the John Edward’s affair. On these two I wrote him to disagree, but my letters weren’t published. I really didn’t expect them to be. I’ll share them here.
I have to take exception to your analysis of this story and here’s why. As you know death is faced daily by combat troops in Iraq. These folks know the risks. But they do it with the hope that in death, they will be treated with respect. Marines have a saying, “Marines always come home.” By that, they mean they don’t leave their dead on the battlefield as other services do. Often under fire and at great risk, they will bring back a fallen buddy to do honor to him.
At the time of the Zoriah Miller story, we had a police officer killed in the line of duty here in Fort Myers, Florida. He was killed breaking up a fight between a young man and his girlfriend. The killer pointed a revolver in the policeman’s face and pulled the trigger. The paper described the scene as grisly and bloody. No pictures were taken, no pictures appeared in the paper. No pictures were posted on anyone’s website. Common decency prevented it. This begs the question. Does the New York Times routinely print pictures of dead New York City policemen? What would happen if you did? There is an analogy here.
Part of the Times’ problem is the perception our forces have of your paper. That is, it is anti-war, anti-military and wants to undermine their efforts. They simply don’t trust you not to use their dead to dishonor their mission. That is why there was such a visceral reaction to Miller’s postings. At some date you may regain their trust. Until then you should use common decency.
In the second Hoyt claimed there was no bias in the decision not to pursue the John Edwards story.
“I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it.” Surely you jest. If you could run the McCain “lobbyist” story and bring up the infidelity angle, you could certainly dig a bit on the Edwards story. Why not contact the National Enquirer to see what you could get. They did answer questions. When asked why no photos in the July story, they gave an ominous answer. They said it was part of a much larger story. The long and short of it is, the story proved out and you blew it. You can rationalize Edwards’ lack of standing, but others said he was on the short list for VP, or barring that, AG in an Obama administration. He was scheduled to speak at the convention and he still has a bargaining chip of 24.5 delegates.
The new bias at the Times is its failure to cover stories that don’t fit the Democrat game plan. Yes I know, these stories really are of no interest. But here’s one that’s hard to argue: On Tuesday November 29, 2005 Joe Lieberman ran an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Our troops Must Stay.” It ran totally counter to the Democrats’ carefully crafted strategy of withdrawing from Iraq by a date certain, the Murtha Plan. The story was a blockbuster. But for one solid week, November 29 through December 5 there wasn’t a peep from the Times. Not until Democrats started talking about drumming him out of the party, did Lieberman’s name appear in the paper on December 6.
The story ran in the other NYC papers and the Washington Post. It was available to the Times from wire services, but it didn’t run. Perhaps the Times was “too squeamish” to tackle that one too. The Times should admit its bias.
Clark Hoyt is strictly window dressing.