NYT Ombudsman Chides Paper for Being Slow on Air America Uptake

Documenting and Exposing the Liberal Political Agenda of the New York Times.
NYT Ombudsman Chides Paper for Being Slow on Air America Uptake

Times ombudsman and loyal company man Barney Calame (who's making predecessor Daniel Okrent look like a profile in courage) finally finds something to criticize his paper about in his latest web journal entry: The paper's almost nonexistent Air America coverage. (Hattip to MediaCrity.)

Calame admits: "Readers of The Times were poorly served by the paper's slowness to cover official investigations into questionable financial transactions involving Air America, the liberal radio network. The Times's first article on the investigations finally appeared last Friday after weeks of articles by other newspapers in New York and elsewhere. The Times's recent slowness stands in contrast to its flurry of articles about Air America in the spring of 2004, when the network was launched. 'Liberal Voices (Some Sharp) Get New Home on Radio Dial,' read the headline on The Times's article the morning of March 31 when the network went on the air. The article noted that the network had a staff headlined by comedian Al Franken and hopes of establishing a counterpoint to conservative radio personalities such as Rush Limbaugh."

Calame makes the same points many conservatives have made: "Yet The Times was silent as other publications reported that city and state investigators were looking into whether the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx had made improper loans of as much as $875,000 to Air America. Mr. Cohen, it turned out, had served simultaneously as a top executive at Air America and as the club's development director. And since the club operated largely with grants from government sources, any money passed to Air America may have come from the public till. It has become clearer in the past week or so that Air America hasn't yet fully repaid the 'loans' from the club, and its financial condition remains murky even in The Times's article Friday. So the future of the radio network seems to be a key question for The Times to answer."

He gets associate managing editor Rick Berke to say: "We were slow in the first place and need to do more."

Calame asserts, with a nod to "conservative bloggers": "But it seems to me that this story is still unfolding, and The Times, for the sake of all its readers, needs to get to the bottom of any improper conduct and assess Air America's future. There's another reason to get to the bottom of the scandal. It's the perception problem - a perception of liberal bias for which I haven't found any evidence after checking with editors at the paper. Failing to cover the story until late last week has led numerous readers, especially those who seemed inspired by conservative bloggers, to write in saying that a liberal bias in the newsroom caused the paper to downplay the budding scandal. One reader put it this way: 'If a conservative radio network had been started with money improperly 'borrowed' from a charity like a boys and girls club, it would be front page news for weeks in your paper. Once more, your left-wing bias is showing.'"

In this case, Calame is actually fulfilling his role as a reader advocate, not merely defending the integrity of the paper while acting insulted by criticism. The acid test: Will Calame bring up his Air America concerns in his actual biweekly column for the dead-tree version of the paper?

For the rest of the newly caffeinated Calame, click here.



GOP Doomed, Again

Wishful thinking? Thursday's piece from Adam Nagourney and David Kirkpatrick is headlined "Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on '06 Vote."

They begin: "A stream of bad news out of Iraq, echoed at home by polls that show growing impatience with the war and rising disapproval of President Bush's Iraq policies, is stirring political concern in Republican circles, party officials said Wednesday. Some said that the perception that the war was faltering was providing a rallying point for dispirited Democrats and could pose problems for Republicans in the Congressional elections next year."

And what Times story is complete without an appearance by left-wing heroine Cindy Sheehan?

"Republicans said a convergence of events - including the protests inspired by the mother of a slain American soldier outside Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas, the missed deadline to draft an Iraqi Constitution and the spike in casualties among reservists - was creating what they said could be a significant and lasting shift in public attitude against the war. The Republicans described that shift as particularly worrisome, occurring 14 months before the midterm elections. As further evidence, they pointed to a special election in Ohio two weeks ago, where a Democratic marine veteran from Iraq who criticized the invasion decision came close to winning in a district that should have easily produced a Republican victory."

The story at least gets some actual conservative activists on the record, like Grover Norquist, Richard Viguerie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Times again mentions the close loss in Ohio, as if it counted for something: "The other changing factor is the continued drop in Mr. Bush's job-approval rating that could make him less welcome on the campaign trail. 'If this continues to drag down Bush's approval ratings, Republican candidates will be running with Bush as baggage, not as an asset,' Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said. 'Should his numbers go much lower, he is going to be a problem for Republican candidates in 2006.' The near success in Ohio by Democrats was achieved after the party had enlisted an Iraq veteran, Paul L. Hackett, who nearly defeated Jean Schmidt."

Nagourney and Kirkpatrick ends on the same ominous note: "Representative Walter B. Jones, a North Carolina Republican who initially supported the war but has begun calling for a pullout, said, 'If your poll numbers are dropping over an issue, and this issue being the war, than obviously there is a message there - no question about it. If we are having this conversation a year from now,' Mr. Jones added, 'the chances are extremely good that this will be unfavorable' for the Republicans."

In other words, just the way the Times wants it.

Back in April Nagourney was speculating about the imminent Republican collapse, except then it was due to Terri Schiavo and gay marriage.

For the rest of Nagourney, click here.



Bias in Gaza

Thursday's big story is the removal, sometimes by force, of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. Steven Erlanger's lead story is somewhat sympathetic to their plight, but manages to call one settlement "one of the most militant and religious of the settlements." Of course, "militant" is the same word the Times uses to describe the anti-Jewish terrorist group Hamas. Erlanger once opened a story describing Hamasas "the Islamic group that combines philanthropy and militancy."

Erlanger also callously accuses one protesting settler family who wore orange stars on their clothing of employing "a piece of theater for the television cameras." Of course, the stars are a reminder of the yellow Star of David patches Jews were made to wear for identificationduring the Holocaust.

Another front-page story from Gaza by former Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet unleashes this historical revisionism: "Unlike the settlers, Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes by an enemy during war, and no one compensated them. There are more differences than parallels, despite a shared romance with the land and with their remembered notions of their present antagonists."

But there's an alternative interpretationbesides the Palestinian one: "The Israeli version is that the Palestinians attacked the Jews and then fled voluntarily because they believed Arab armies would soon liberate Palestine."

Predictably, the pro-Palestinian Bennet ignores that view, stating the Palestinian point of view as settled history. He also ignores another, possibly relevant, detail from 1948: The day after Israel was granted statehood by the United Nations in May that year, it was invaded by Arab armies from five nations (Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq) out to destroy the fledgling Jewish homeland.

For more Erlanger in Gaza click here.

To read the rest of Bennet in Gaza click here.



Still Coddling Cindy Sheehan

Two sympathetic stories from White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller on anti-war Bush-hater Cindy Sheehan, neither of which goes into the incendiary things Sheehan has said about the president, which even the WashingtonPost has eventually gotten around to.

In Wednesday's "Protester Vows to Continue Her Vigil Near Bush Ranch," Bumiller gets only her side of the story: "Ms. Sheehan, who has vowed not to leave until Mr. Bush comes off his ranch and speaks to her, said that if local residents wanted her to leave, 'they should talk to their neighbor, George Bush, and tell him to talk to us.' Mr. Bush did meet with Ms. Sheehan in June 2004, but she has said that the president was disrespectful to her by referring to her as 'Mom' throughout the meeting."

Again the Times ignores that Sheehan said something completely different about that meeting at thetime, telling the local Vacaville (Ca.) Reporter newspaper: "We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with usI now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

Thursday, Bumiller returns with "Turning Out to Support a Mother's Protest," on the nationwide protests held Wednesday night in support of Sheehan's "cause." Bumiller manages not to label the left-wing MoveOn.org as liberal.

"Supporters of Cindy Sheehan held more than 1,500 candlelight vigils across the country on Wednesday night in solidarity with this mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who has set up a protest encampment down the road from President Bush's ranch here. The vigils, coordinated by the advocacy group MoveOn.org, were held in places from Lafayette Park across from the White House to Rockefeller Center to Clover Park in Santa Monica, Calif.Organizers said the response showed how Ms. Sheehan had become a catalyst for an antiwar movement that had been relatively unfocused since the 2004 presidential campaign."

For Bumiller on Sheehan from Wednesday, click here.

For Bumiller on Sheehan from Thursday, click here.