The reader complaints are essentially twofold: the Times coverage of the Sanders campaign, compared to that of Trump and Clinton and Bush, has been scanty, buried deep within the inner pages of the newspaper; and, that the rare examples of prominent coverage have been derisive and/or dismissive, caricaturing Sanders as a wild-haired socialist who cannot possibly win the Democratic nomination. (regular Times commenter Rima Regas has compiled a pretty comprehensive, well-sourced overview.)
So, at the request of Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, newly-appointed political editor Carolyn Ryan has finally responded to the accusations, saying that while she "respects the passion of the Sanders supporters," she thinks they may be overlooking much of the coverage.
Right off the bat, Ryan mischaracterizes the complainers as Sanders supporters. Although many of them are, this has nothing to do with cheerleading for a candidate. This has to do with how the largest news organization in the world is falling down on the job, failing in its duty of basic journalistic integrity.
Ryan provides a laundry list of every Grey Lady Sanders article ever written, without noting the placement and without comparing the volume to pieces on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which have been, by the paper's own admission, much more numerous. Ryan concludes,
The Sanders campaign stands out, in my experience, for its fervent energy and organization. But one of the strategies of Sanders supporters is to relentlessly agitate for more favorable coverage from The Times and other outlets.
We are mindful of their critiques and listen to their concerns, and often point out stories to them that they have overlooked.But ultimately we have to use our journalistic judgment and serve a broad readership, by covering the entire field of candidates, and not make decisions in response to lobbying campaigns.I’m puzzled by the tone complaints and I cannot say that I agree with them.The reader responses to her response were pretty much as you'd expect. Here's mine:
Carolyn Ryan's response is the gold standard for whenever hoi polloi dare to complain. She chides us for our "tone," and caricatures us as a mob of Sandernistas who don't recognize quality and fairness when we see it.Expecting the New York Times to fairly treat an FDR-style candidate running in the interests of working and poor people would be like expecting the Queen to invite the servants to join her for dinner. The Times, along with all establishment media relying on the dollars of corporate and plutocratic advertisers, is not about to bite the sensitive hand that feeds it. Bernie Sanders is not the first, nor will he be the last, victim of this kind of neoliberal bias at the hands of the media-political nexus.
She could have just boiled it down to "harrumph!"
Silly me, not to appreciate that the NYT has captured first, foremost and better than anybody else what it considers to be the "essence" of Bernie Sanders. It reminds me of David Brooks's response when readers complained about his use of the word "mutts" to describe bi-racial and multi-ethnic people. In essence, it was more feigned befuddlement coupled with advice to get over ourselves.
It's like the response of TV critic Alessandra Stanley when readers reacted negatively to her characterization of Shonda Rhimes as "an angry black woman." (Stanley was just being "arch" and if readers didn't get her irony and wit, then too bad.)
Carolyn Ryan has just cringingly described her campaign reporters as her elite stable of "thoroughbreds." No surprise therefore that she seems to view those complaining about the Bernie Sanders coverage as a bunch of nags. Not a whinny attitude if you want to keep your readers.
Speaking of food, I had almost forgotten that this is our great national holiday of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste! Then an email alert from the Times reminded me. Food critic Sam Sifton is sharing his 9/11 "recipes of remembrance."
As you ponder the 3,000 lives lost on that day, The Times wants you treat yourself to some steak frites with Bearnaise sauce (not to be confused with those lumpen Freedom Fries). Do not, of course, chew over the millions of lives lost and uprooted in the continuous illegal wars of American aggression stemming from that terrible day as you swill white wine and comfort yourself with binge-watching Narcos on Netflix from the safety of your luxury digs. Mayor Rudy Giuliani urged us to go shopping after the disaster. Sam Sifton wants you to keep stuffing your faces as you party like it's 9/11 all weekend long:
Rate your recipes after you've cooked them, and leave notes on them, and send them around. We want a big party here. Bring some friends.
As always, we'd like you to let us know if you have any problems with our technology, design or prose. We're at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'm on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you want to show me your food. #NYTCooking! Have a great weekend.Now that you've finished quietly barfing over that little interlude, let's get back to the political stuff. The lines between the mass media and government/political parties/donors are growing increasingly blurred. Just days ago, Times Executive Editor Dean Bacquet tellingly dished to the Washington Post (the source of that awful "thoroughbred" quote) that Carolyn Ryan will be moving from running the Washington Bureau to running "one heck of a campaign" within a campaign from New York City, money capital of the world and therefore Campaign Central.
The presidential campaign, admitted Bacquet to the WaPo's Erik Wemple, "is not really a Washington story." Plus, it would be too hard for Ryan to cover both "Trumpfest" and the day-to-day news coming from the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court.
“The reality is that the Obama second term — he’s not going quietly,” says Ryan, noting that the paper needs a Washington bureau chief who can pay heed to the president’s last months in office. (Baquet addressed the same dynamic, only with a touch of internal-memo hyperbole, as he highlighted the “continuing story of the epic struggle surrounding President Obama’s final months in Washington.”)They don't even try to hide the fact that they are propagandists first, news reporters second.The president will be treated not as a public servant accountable to the public, but as some kind of mythic hero in a Manichean battle between good and evil.
Since, as researchers Martin Gillens and Benjamin Page have demonstrated, the wealthy get what they want in the way of legislation from the politicians whom they fund, doesn't it stand to reason that they also get what they want from the media they own? What they seem to want is an alternate reality, far removed from the lives and the travails of regular people. No wonder that their manufactured reality has no room for the likes of Bernie Sanders and his populist agenda.
They don't even try to hide their dismay over the rising fortunes of the Sanders campaign. In another digital front-page Times piece published on Wednesday, panicking Wall Street Democrats mulled recruiting a malleable candidate to replace the tanking Hillary Clinton. Their adherence to the plutocracy couldn't be more brazen:
It is not just Mrs. Clinton’s weakness in the polls that has generated talk of other alternatives, but also the strength of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is routinely drawing huge crowds at campaign events. That has been disconcerting to Democratic officials who believe that Mr. Sanders, a socialist, is so liberal that his presence at the top of the party’s ticket in 2016 would be disastrous.
“If party leaders see a scenario next winter where Bernie Sanders has a real chance at the Democratic nomination, I think there’s no question that leaders will reach out to Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry or even Gore about entering the primaries,” said Garnet F. Coleman, a Texas state lawmaker and Democratic national committeeman.The corporate press resides not in the Fourth Estate, but in a luxurious guest house on a virtual gated estate called Oligarchic Acres, Feudal States of America Inc.
|The Royal Prosecutor, the Scribe, and the Feudal Lord (Anonymous, 13th century)|