May 04, 2007
Good Sign, or PR?

As a long-time critic of the New York Times, I have to say my first impression of their new public editor is positive.

Clark Hoyt, the third PE after Daniel Okrent and Byron Calame, was Knight-Ridder’s Washington editor from 1999; when McClatchy bought K-R last year, he became a consultant.

In the prelude to the Iraq war and the early days of the war, Knight-Ridder stood apart from most of the mainstream news media in raising doubts at times about the Bush administration’s claims, later discredited, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said that record contributed to his selection of Mr. Hoyt.

“There was a lot of work Knight-Ridder did that was prescient, that wasn’t easy to do,” Mr. Keller said. “It’s always hard to go against conventional wisdom. I think it probably brings him a measure of credibility that helps in getting started on a job like that — that he’s been associated with a brave and aggressive reporting exercise like that.”

Mr. Hoyt said that in 2002 and 2003 he had fielded a great deal of criticism “from angry readers who believed that we weren’t being patriotic, from government officials who said that what we were doing was wrong.”

So maybe the Times is finally starting to get a conscience. Or maybe they just realize how bad their public image is right now. And despite the Pulitzer I have to say I still believe Eagleton was a decent guy who would have made a good VP. But running against a feral Nixon is a dangerous job.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at May 04, 2007 03:37 PM
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I have to say I'm a little surprised at the venom directed at the Times in the blogosphere, and it's good to see a kind word for the Old Gray Lady. Even through the bad Howell Raines and Judith Miller days, it was always possible to find the truth about the Iraq war buildup in the Times, even if you had to look pretty hard for it. Even then, day in day out and in spite of atrocities like the lack of honest coverage of the stolen election in Florida the fawning coverage of Bush and the constant ridicule of Gore, the Times did a job of reporting that no other paper could match. (McClatchy I guess was a chain of papers and it did a hell of a job with the resources it had, but those resources never matched the Times. WaPo had some decent reporting, but its editorial page is an atrocity.)

Anyway, bottom line, the Times was an invaluable national resource and is now become an even better one. Which is why the blogs, including this one, rely on it so heavily.

Posted by: CCRyder on May 5, 2007 7:45 PM

I would take issue with the idea that the Times did a job of reporting that no other paper could match. In my opinion, the Post was several times better, and Knight-Ridder, which is now owned by McClatchy, was a hundred times better than that.

To my mind the venom directed against the Times arises from what appears to me to have been blatantly dishonest cheerleading for the war. How could that not generate unhappiness among readers, most of whom are presumably to the left of, say, Wall Street Journal readers?

Personally I don't read the Times at all unless I'm linked to it from some relatively reliable news source, which happens frequently. But I pretty much never visit the front page on my own. I think Jay Rosen is right when he says that the Post "is our great national newspaper now". But for me that attitude preceded the current war.

One thing I have to say about the Times, though, is that even when they lost their credibility they retained their publishing standards.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 5, 2007 8:12 PM
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