NYT Tries to Deflect Charges of Bias, Announces ‘Opinion Media’ Editor

nyt-fig-leaf.jpgThe New York Times announced today that it would appoint an editor to monitor ‘opinion media’. In an attempt to respond to criticism that it has been too slow to pick up on stories first reported by conservative blogs and talk show hosts, the Times acknowledged poor coverage, but denied a political agenda.

The self-proclaimed ‘paper of record’ was extremely slow in picking up on two recent stories. The first, the ‘trutherism’ of former White House Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, was initially reported by Pajamas Media, and later by Glenn Beck on his Fox News talk show. The Times did not cover the story until after Jones had resigned.

Later, the Times neglected to report on the undercover sting operation that exposed ACORN for offering assistance in a bogus child prostitution ring. The Times reported on Congress’s votes to de-fund ACORN, but neglected to mention the sting operation that inspired the votes.

The Times’s Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote in today’s paper,

Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called BigGovernment.com. When the Senate voted to cut off all federal funds to Acorn, there was not a word in the newspaper or on its Web site. When the New York City Council froze all its funding for Acorn and the Brooklyn district attorney opened a criminal investigation, there was still nothing.

Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.

Despite what the critics think, Abramson said the problem was not liberal bias.

Notwithstanding Abramson’s and Hoyt’s claims, other stories reported by ‘opinion media’ outlets have been quickly picked up on and reported. When images surfaced that showed horrible prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, for example, the Times was quick to report the story, and the resulting prosecutions of military officials.

The horrible pictures of abuses at Abu Ghraib warranted extensive coverage from the Times. They were first released by web forum AntiWar.com, an ‘opinion media’ page in every sense of the word. But incriminating video evidence of the willingness of ACORN to aid in the smuggling of underage Salvadorian sex slaves supposedly went unnoticed, even after Fox News aired segments on the controversy.

The Times consistently cites liberal blogs far more than ones on the right, undermining the claim that they missed these two stories because they don’t monitor online media. A Nexis search reveals 477 combined mentions of five of the left’s top blogs: Huffington Post, Think Progress, TalkingPointsMemo, Daily Kos, and Media Matters.

But a search for five of the right’s top blogs, Hot Air, Pajamas Media, NewsBusters, RedState, and TownHall turns up only 18 combined mentions from the Times.

It comes as some relief to those in the center-right blogosphere that the Times will now devote more effort to monitoring stories broken there, especially given that the ACORN story and the Van Jones story were first reported by bloggers (or ‘opinion’ journalists as the Times sees fit to call them).

Based on the paper’s record of ignoring news stories originating from right-oriented media outlets, don’t be surprised if the Times’s new opinion monitor ends up highlighting even more left-wing blog froth than before.

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