Grey lady down

Large-scale (daily) print journalism is a tough business these days. While weekly newspapers are doing well, daily papers are suffering. Even the worlds leading financial daily, the Wall Street Journal, has suffered declines in readership as former readers choose to go online for their information needs. But no major paper still publishing has suffered the decline in fortune and stature experienced by the Grey Lady at Forty Third Street in New York City. A July 2008 Real Clear Politics web article by Thomas Lifson, written just before any of the present economic difficulties surfaced, describes a 75 percent decline in earnings per share from the previous quarter, traceable, he argues, to decreasing ad revenues (10 percent). Another, more persuasive, web article on the Political Calculations blog-spot points to a 1/3 decline in readership within the NYC market alone, from 1993 through 2007, and goes on to argue that the papers long-standing leftist tilteffectively sabotages the newspapers ability to successfully reachaudience. Id add the obvious: that it has driven former readers away. Back when I was a N.Y. Times subscriber, historical revelations were beginning to appear about the reporting event which may, in retrospect, have marked the turning point from the Grey Ladys earlier rightist tilt, which had resulted in biased reporting of the various strikes and economic problems of the late 19th century. That event was the visit to the Soviet Union of Grey Lady reporter Walter Duranty in the 1930s, during which time he toured the Ukraine and chose not to see or report on, mass starvation, mass deportations, a gulag of concentration camps, widespread destruction of small (kulak) farmers, or forced industrialization under slave labor conditions. The adulatory quote, I have seen the future and it works, came not from Duranty but from fellow-communism-enthusiast Lincoln Steffens; it neatly encapsulates the eagerness of both to portray Stalin as a beneficent avuncular land-reformer who did great things for Mother Russia. Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his dishonest reporting, and to this day the Grey Lady has not expressed any regret over his deliberately falsified writings. If such reporting, once exposed as it was starting in the 1960s, drives readers away, so too does op-ed writing biased to the point of illogicality. A recent example, the Racism without Racists, Nicholas Kristoffs piece reprinted in the Oct. 6 Rutland Herald, (presumably for the editors admiration of its opinion) argues that whites who choose not to vote for a semiblack candidate are unconsciously racist, while blacks who do arent. Obamas race helps himwin overwhelming black votes and turnout. Kristoff opines favorably, with not even a whiff of racial bias detected by him in such voting percentages. Lots of now-former subscribers wont pay to read such non-sequitur stuff (even in the Rutland Herald). Like most of the Mainstream Media, he chooses not to mention the appeal to black-male-identity thinking subsumed in the for-insiders-only and rarely reported by the Mainstream Media campaign slogan bros befo hos and the skin-color prejudice it suggests. All that I ever learned, formally, about reporting or editorial writing came from an English teacher who was the advisor to the little high school newspaper I edited for a year. My teachers guidelines were clear: reporting must be objective, factually accurate, and non-selective. All the News Thats Fit to Print has been the Grey Ladys proud motto. My teacher said that editorials must be logical, factually supported, and internally consistent. Readers began to learn, a generation after the fact, thats Durantys reporting wasnt logical or factual. Id argue today that that Kristoffs opinionating isnt logical or factual either. Kristoff uses such phrases as unconscious discrimination and aversive racism only against white voters who (dont like the proposed ultra liberal policies of his preferred candidate), and not against black voters who, polls show, are consciously choosing to align with him at improbable-except-for-racial-preference 80-to-90 percent numbers a phenomenon which traces to a phenomenon they define as racial solidarity. Apparently, for the Grey Ladys op-ed writers, racial solidarity as a basis for a voting for Obama is quite ok, but unconscious discrimination isnt. Eh? As for the future of the Grey Lady of Forty Third Street, that subject was tackled, perhaps a shade over-optimistically, in a January 2005 Business Week article. Editor Daniel Okrent asked the $10,000 question: Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?His answer was of course it is. Id opine, as befits this opinion column, that a self-consciously blue newspaper can prosper nicely in a blue city in a blue state in a blue region. But then Id add that it cant prosper or even survive if it prints fraudulently ideological reporting like Walter Duranty, Jayson Blair and Nicholas Kristoff. Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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