New York Times confused about its own liberalism

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson denied Tuesday that her paper has a liberal bias, despite the fact that her current and former public editors both criticized the paper’s left-leaning viewpoint.

Asked by Michael Kinsley in a New Republic interview Tuesday whether a Martian descending to Earth would recognize “ideological preference” in the paper, Abramson replied, “Well, on the editorial and opinion pages they would” but denied that the news page contains any bias.

“Um, I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan outlook that reflects that, even as we become international, we’re a New York–based news institution. I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may to some people seem to reflect a liberal point of view. But I actually don’t think it does,” Abramson said.

But Times public editor Margaret Sullivan admitted in a television interview Sunday that the Times is a liberal newspaper.

“Well, some of my predecessors have taken that head-on. In fact, Daniel Okrent, the first public editor, once wrote a column — and I think the headline said something like ‘Is ‘The Times’ a Liberal Newspaper?’ And his answer in the lead was, of course it is,” Sullivan said.

“I mean that is obviously something people feel about ‘The Times,’ and I think maybe the best way to think about it is that ‘The Times’ reflects its readership, its community. It’s an urban paper; it’s a New York City paper. I mean that’s a reasonable criticism, I think,” Sullivan added.

Former Times public editor Arthur Brisbane devoted a sizable chunk of his departing column last August to discussing the newspaper’s liberalism, even claiming that progressivism “bleeds through the fabric” of America’s newspaper of record.

“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,” Brisbane wrote.

“As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects,” Brisbane wrote.

“A just-released Pew Research Center survey found that The Times’s ‘believability rating’ had dropped drastically among Republicans compared with Democrats, and was an almost-perfect mirror opposite of Fox News’s rating,” Brisbane noted. “Can that be good?”

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Patrick Howley