New York Times Hates Fox; Sun Rises in East

Stop the presses!  Bulletin!!  New York Times hates Fox News!!!

What’s the next big story? Sun rises in East?

Okay, it’s not exactly a man bites dog story that the liberal New York Times hates the conservative Fox News Channel.  But why does Bill Keller, the paper’s top news editor, care about Fox at all?  After all, he’s the executive editor of the New York Times, the most important newspaper in the universe (and if you don’t believe me, ask anyone who works at the Times) — and Fox is just one of a million cable channels.

Last month, at the National Press Club in Washington, Keller said that Fox News has created “a level of cynicism about the news in general” and that it has made America a more “polarized and strident” place thanks to the kinds of things said on Fox.

Then, just the other night, at a York Press Club event he took another shot at the cable network.  “I think if you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you’re among the most cynical people on planet Earth,” Keller said.  “I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than ‘Fair and Balanced.’”

Let’s start with this:  There are things that Fox News does that deserve to be criticized.  I don’t like it, for example, when some of their opinion anchors become cheerleaders for events like tea party rallies.  And while I know that some shows on the Fox News Channel are obviously straight news and others are obviously opinion shows, there are some programs on Fox that confuse me, because news and opinion dance a little to closely for my taste.

So Fox News should not be off limits.  I’m just not sure Bill Keller is the right guy to criticize Fox, or any other news organization, given his own track record.

Remember, Bill Keller was running the Times newsroom in 2006 when his newspaper led a pack of media jackals on the so-called Duke Lacrosse Rape Case story, which, in both columns and news reports,smeared three white kids for a crime they never committed – a crime that nobody ever committed.  Why?  Because the supposed victim was poor and black and the supposed rapists were white, male and presumably well-off.

Never mind that the woman was a liar and had psychological problems.  The story fit right into the Times’ liberal worldview.  Bill Keller let the paper’s liberal biases corrupt – infect – the paper’s news coverage.

Two years later, in February 2008, during the presidential campaign, the Times ran a page one story, based on two anonymous sources, hinting that Senator John McCain had had an affair with a young, attractive lobbyist.  McCain vehemently denied the allegation.  Even the paper’s Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, slapped the Times around for the way it reported the story.  “And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair,” he wrote, “whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide. … And if you cannot provide readers with some independent evidence, I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed.”

Eight months after that scathing critique from the paper’s own ombudsman and just one month before the presidential election,  Bill Keller was part of a media panel in New York and was asked what he thought of the McCain campaign’s earlier criticism of the Times.  “My first tendency when they do that,’ Keller said, “is to find the toughest McCain story we’ve got and put it on the front page, just to show them that they can’t get away with it.”

And this is the guy complaining about the cynicism at Fox News?

Can you imagine if Roger Ailes, who runs the Fox News Channel, had said something like that?  Can you imagine if Ailes had said, “My first tendency when someone comes after Fox is to find the toughest story we have on that guy and put it on the air all day long – just to send a message that you can’t criticize Fox and get away with it.”

I think it’s safe to say that Bill Keller would have run a page one story about how corruption at Fox starts at the top.

Except in real life it was Keller who made the threat.  Not Ailes.

So let’s go back to where we began:  Why does Bill Keller care so much about Fox News?

Once the New York Times – the newspaper of record — led the national conversation.  Once the Times shaped this nation’s events.  Now Fox has a voice in the national conversation, and a loud one at that.  Now Fox also helps shape events.  And that drives media elites like Bill Keller nuts, because he and the other liberals who run the “mainstream media” think the people at Fox and the people who watch Fox are a bunch of yahoos.

There is tremendous frustration in the old “mainstream” media.  They no longer control the flow of information.  They know it.  They hate it.  They long for a time that will never return.  So, in their frustration, they lash out at Fox, wondering why so many Americans tune in to such garbage.

But it is time and energy misspent.  Under Keller’s reign as the paper’s top news editor, the daily circulation of the Times has dropped from 1,118,565 in 2003 to 876,638 in 2010 – a drop of 21.6 percent.

Under Keller, operating profits dropped from $540 million in 2003 to $234 million in 2010 – a drop of 57 percent.

From the Nobody-Asked-Me Department:  Bill, worry less about Fox and more about matters closer to home.  Much closer.

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  • EddieD_Boston

    Bernie,

    Check out Renee Loth’s editorial in Saturday’s Boston Globe titled “No Silver Lining in GOP Cloud”. If you think the NYT is left-wing the Globe makes them look sane.

    I encourage all of the Bernie faithful to read it too. It’ll make you laugh harder than the comics page.

  • Shirl

    If it were not for Fox News, we would all still be in the dark. I praise Fox News for being there for all Americans who want the truth in news telling. I just wish we had 10 more news outlets exactly like FOX NEWS!!

  • Kevin M. Temple

    People only talk about those that are worth talking about.

  • Jay Thompson

    Bernie, what is lost in the discussion is the juicy irony of it all. When the MSM controlled the shaping power of narrative they cried for the democratization of information (and it was probably sincere, for when control is close to the vest it is easy to talk about spreading the wealth).
    Now that information has been democratized, readily available from an almost infinite number of sources, it is as though the old vanguard is shocked by the results. Decades ago, Dylan sang, “the times they are a changin,’” and now that they have, and the rose-colored lenses didn’t bring about their rose-colored, idyllic world, they cry foul.
    Oh, sweet irony! Defend the masses in the 60s and when the masses turn away from the defenders, well…Behind closed doors I wonder how many times the intelligentsia have said, “But that’s not what we meant…”

  • Scott

    I for one am glad that the NYT is having some intense competition. I don’t know Mr. Keller at all. However, I suspect that he harbors the same mentality as NPR’s Ron Schiller which makes the downfall of media outlets such as the NYT even better to watch.

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  • http://www.eschatonblog.com/ Wil Burns

    Bernie, You state that the daily circulation of the Times has dropped, but just like Foxnews does, you fail to mention that; all newspapers in the USA has had significant circulation drop. And, under Keller, operating profits were $234 million in 2010. Not too bad, considering we were in a recession!

    • EddieD_Boston

      Right nitwit, ALL newspapers are seeing their circulation drop. But what you’re not bright enough to grasp is they’re ALL liberal. Duh!

      • Bob Hadley

        All newspapers are liberal?????????????? Are you calling the Washington Times, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal liberal? Have you lost it, mun?

        No, not all newspapers are liberal. My local newspaper is moderately conservative. It’s circulation has plummeted over the years. In case you haven’t heard, the sources for news have expanded tremendously. This is at least one major reason why the traditional news networks are also losing viewers.

        Maybe someone will do a comparitive study of circulation and financial solvency of conservative newspapers versus liberal newspapers. Of course, such a study would involve defining liberal and conservative.

        Speaking of definitions, are you a liberal? You don’t seem to let facts get in the way of a good rant. And, as we all know, that’s what liberals do. ;)

        • EddieD_Boston

          My mistake. I should have said 99.99%.

          • Bob Hadley

            And how did you arrive at that statistic? Give me the benefit of your research or that of someone else. I know you didn’t just make up that statistic because that’s what liberals do. ;)

    • Bruce A.

      A steady drop in circulation & a steady drop in revenues means take corrective action. There is no logical reason a paper with the stature of the NYT should be sliding down the tank, except for the fact less people are reading it. Has the paper increased its web presence? Has the paper tried to improve on the perception of its liberal views? Where is the upper management on these issues?

    • begbie

      I have to agree with you, Wil. All papers have seen a significant and steady drop in circulation. It’s difficult to assertain what percentage of the cause was bad management or technological advances.

      • Paul Courtney

        Yes, Eddied overstates it and all papers have declined. One could say all “traditional” media has declined, but that, too, would be an overstatement. What is undeniable is this-print media and Network news lean liberal/progressive, and have been in steep, long decline, while talk radio and Fox lean conservative. How have they been doin? It’s probably true that conservative newspapers are in decline (all 3 of them) but how does Wil explain the steady growth of talk radio and Fox over almost 20 years, contrasted with the shrinkage of NYT and Network news? Actually, doesn’t matter what Wil thinks, real question is, are there folks who make business decisions for MSM? Apparently not in the News divisions. I understand news people will flatter themselves that it’s not “just a business”, but willful blindness to such numbers is accelerating the fall, and we can see it even if Mr. Keller cannot.

  • http://www.eschatonblog.com/ Wil Burns

    Bernie, Don’t you ever get upset when Fox airs cropped video’s to prove a slanted view. Sean Hannity does it all the time.

    • Bernie

      Yes I do. And I have spoken out PUBLICLY about it. To CONSERVATIVE groups, no less.

      • EddieD_Boston

        And that’s why we love ya Bernie.

      • Ron Kean

        And that’s why we keep comin’ back here to the man who wrote the book on bias.

      • begbie

        I believe you, Bernie. I watched O’Reilly last night. You are fair.

  • Paul Courtney

    Notice how Mr. Keller is like the jilted lover, who spent years neglecting a mate and is now furious to find himself cuckolded? Decades ago, the folks at the NYT decided if you weren’t progressive, you were too stupid to persuade. But they never considered we might become too “stupid” to buy their paper, or look elsewhere for information. As Chas Krauthammer has hilariously put it, this created a niche audience-half of Americans, who looked elsewhere and found a soulmate and respect. (Maybe this analogy gets a bit strained, but…) Now Mr. Keller wonders what the hell we see in that guy. What next, is he gonna stalk us?

  • Kathie Ampela

    Good article, Bernie, thank you. Jealousy is a green eyed monster…that’s what all this is about. Rather than taking responsibility for their own failures, the NYT finds it easier to blame Fox News and all the “stupid” people that watch. Everyone is wrong..but not us. Their worldview makes no sense and it spills over into their reporting..why would anyone waste time reading a newspaper like that?

    I have to disagree with you on a point you made about Fox News, Bernie. “There are some programs on Fox that confuse me, because news and opinion dance a little to closely for my taste.” I can’t speak for all programming on FNC, because I don’t watch it 24/7, however, there is a mixture of straight news and analysis/commentary on most of the shows that I’ve seen. (Except for the evening opinion hosts) Special Report w/Bret Baier has the “all star panel” in the last 20 minutes..I’ve been very interested in analysis since the uprisings in the Middle East started. My point is, it’s not fair to criticize FNC for that…other cable news channels have the same format. I don’t think a 24 hour cable news channel could survive doing straight news alone similar to the old days with Walter Cronkite. According to CBS CEO Les Moonves that format is the future of network news: http://www.aim.org/don-irvine-blog/cbs-ceo-evening-news-needs-to-change/. If he’s right, then opinion news is the wave of the future for all not just FNC.

  • Ron Kean

    I’ve always wondered about the decline and maybe definitive fall of the MSM thinking it would come gradually – a thousand viewers or a thousand subscribers at a time.

    But now I wonder if it will come like all of those countries in the middle east. A big surprise and ‘poof’ it’s gone.

    Newsweek sold for a dollar and now others are throwing money down the hole. AOL’s stock is sinking after buying the Huffington Post. Air America. What comparable conservative outlet has had the same fate?

    PS. Edit mode on this site is really good

  • Cameron D. MacKay

    Bernie: Your analysis of the New York Times, coming on the heels of the NPR exposure surely provides sufficient evidence that the phrase “liberal intellectual elite” should be relegated to the status of the “n” word. I suggest “liberal intellectually bankrupt” as a suitable replacement.

  • EddieD_Boston

    Yup, bottom line, they hate Fox because Fox is a threat to their control of the national dialogue. Little sissies throwing temper tantrums. Pathetic.

  • David Lawlor

    The New York Times 57% drop in profits is why Bill Keller is concerned about FOX.

    • http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/ Bernard Goldberg

      nice, elegant post, David.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    If you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you may among the most cynical people on planet Earth, but if you aren’t a regular viewer of Fox News, you don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about Fox News.

    It follows that Mr. Keller is either (a) cynical because he watches FNC on a regular basis himself, or (b) ignorant because he doesn’t.

    • http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/ Bernard Goldberg

      impeccable logic, cyberquill

    • http://www.eschatonblog.com/ Wil Burns

      Cy, The only people who believe Fox News is -not- the propaganda arm of the GOP, and who deny that it is, are those who watch it religiously and deliberately avoid watching or listening to anyone or anything else.

  • Andrew D

    I think what really bothers these old media types is that the existence of Fox makes it harder for them to sell the public on their one-sided view of the world. We can think more critically about the stories in the Times (and every other MSM outlet) because we can hear the other side. Fox is “fair and balanced” not in the sense that it necessarily always presents both sides (though it does this better than the MSM has done, traditionally), but that it balances out the leftist-only spin on news we’ve had for all these years. And this is at least a big part of what really bothers them.

    -Andrew

    • http://www.eschatonblog.com/ Wil Burns

      Andrew, And as far as Fox being “trusted,” why wouldn’t a network that constantly tells its viewers exactly what they want to hear be “trusted” by those viewers? Particularly when its viewers don’t watch or pay attention to any other source, whereas non-Fox viewers tend to seek multiple sources.

  • Bruce A.

    Good one Bernie! Maybe the NYT management team will also read this and realize that their business plan is not working.

    • http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/ Bernard Goldberg

      maybe. but i’m not betting on it.

  • http://bit.ly/aa7vFR Dan Farfan

    I agree that no longer leading the (at least in the bubble, if not national) conversation seems to be a source of frustration, failure and a nostalgic fondness for times long past at NYT (and others).

    However, it’s the shrinking profits that makes the issue rise (boil?) to the point where insulting Fox News and Fox News viewers seemed as though it was a way to “fight back.” If magically profits were up while revenues went down, they’d probably never pay attention to the “other guy.”

    Speaking of slinging arrows, doesn’t the science of insults pretty much demand the conclusion that insulting a group also insults any group who seeks to attract that group?

    “Hello Fox News advertisers. This is NYT. You are foolish to spend your money to attract Fox News viewers. They are cynical, flawed people. Spend your money with us. We have better readers than they have viewers. Our people are worth more than their people. How do we know? Uhh, weren’t you listening? This is the NYT calling.”

    But the ultimate nugget of irony to me is that if NYT were actually still worthy of the special position they once held (and seem to miss), they certainly would be able to mount a more credible challenge than some verbal insults from the top guy. I guess they are just doing the best they can.

    It does make sense though. After losing the ability to lead, losing the ability to describe is probably the next to go. I wonder what impact that will have on circulation and profits the next few years.

    @DanFarfan

    • Rob D

      “But the ultimate nugget of irony to me is that if NYT were actually still worthy of the special position they once held (and seem to miss), they certainly would be able to mount a more credible challenge than some verbal insults from the top guy.”

      Agreed Dan, but I think the greater irony is that if they were still worthy they wouldn’t have to mount any challenge, they wouldn’t have to say anything, just like in the good old days of print journalism when NYT was the gold standard.

      I’m particularly amused by “I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than ‘Fair and Balanced.’” from the people that promoted Duke Lacrosse and anonymous rumors about John McCain, while plagiarizing the Wall Street Journal and claiming to represent “all the news that’s fit to print”.