MONDAY’S LETTERS: Readers Take NYT’s Keller to Task for Liberal Bias

By: E&P Staff

E&P received several dozen e-mails in response to the story about New York Times editor Bill Keller’s critique of conservative legal scholar Richard A. Posner’s recent book reviews on the media. So far, the letters have been overwhelmingly critical of Keller’s stance, with many suggesting that the editor is ignoring political bias at his own paper. A sampling is below, in addition to thoughts on the media’s complicity in clearing the way for war in Iraq and the ongoing attacks against free speech by corporations.

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Regarding NYT Editor Keller’s response to the Posner critique:

The Times does have an undeniable bias, but counter to tirelessly promoted right-wing spin, that bias is an elite bias, not a liberal one.

What’s the difference? A liberal newspaper wouldn’t run in its Sunday Business section a column on how best to fire your employees, as the Times did this August 7. A liberal newspaper wouldn’t shamelessly further the case for a neoconservative war of choice, as Judith
Miller’s pre-war WMD hype consistently did. And a liberal newspaper wouldn’t ask in a front-page Science Times headline “Gay, Straight, or Lying: Bisexuality Revisited” and then proceed to present an uncritical article based largely on one study, failing to note the long history of denial of all stripes of sexual minorities by the main author of that study.

Liberals represent the voice of the poor, the voice of peace, and the voice of tolerance. Those are three types of voices which are clearly absent in the New York Times.

Stephen Kahn Bonnett, Age 16
Brooklyn, NY

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In view of the fact that Mr. Posner’s understanding closely parallels that of many others across the United States, one might properly ask what causes such a large portion of the population to have such a negative view of the members of the media? Indeed, we see fewer and fewer people supporting the media as time progresses along its tedious path specifically because of the great difficulty in discerning which media are openly partisan and which sequester opinion from news. Mr. Keller may have read about the recent polls that reflect that trend, or might possibly have noticed the NYT’s “bottom line” shrinkage. That certainly is an objective measure of the dwindling level of faith the public has in the once honored and trusted position the media held in our society!

More learned men than I have tried to explain this condition: the public’s perception of the media having squandered their honored position of trust by mixing opinion with the news, rather than keeping each corralled on its own “pasture.” By weaving editorial material into news stories, and then denying the practice when readers and critics quote page and paragraph, the media, (both print and various levels of electronic), have earned the “Scarlet Letter” for Adulteress in the eyes of more than half the adults in this country. That’s a sad achievement.

Fred Clark
Clear Lake, Iowa

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Unfortunately, so many in America except the mainstream press can see the unbalanced and liberal bias in their reports. We understand that they cannot react properly because liberals believe they are balanced and never see their bias.

Myles Beck
Columbia, S.C.

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[Keller] charges that Posner ?weirdly? makes almost no distinction ?within the vast category of American media, between those that are aggressively partisan and those that strive to keep opinion sequestered from news”

Apparently, Keller hasn’t read his own paper.

Shane Peterson

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The bias of the editor is shown (apparently without his understanding) in his statement “the idealism of reporters who think they can make the world better”… One cannot be an idealist and report the news in an unbiased fashion. Typically, idealists are also liberal thinkers, in my view, and the bias reflects their politics.

Randolph Knipp
Orange, Texas

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Re: CNN Makes News with WMD Special, But Press Deserves Blame, Too

How quickly we forget. By now, most everyone knows and remembers that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and the rest of the Bush Administration lied to Congress, the press, and the American people in a massive propaganda campaign to push, prod, and lead us into this ill-conceived, badly-planned, totally preemptive, and, ultimately, horribly destructive and bloody War on Iraq.

But until I read your recent piece in Editor and Publisher, I had almost forgotten that it was the “trustworthy”,” moderate”, and “reasonable” Colin Powell who gave that key speech to the UN on Feb. 5, 2003, telling us (and the world) that “Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.”

That might have been the “tipping point” in selling the War on Iraq to the media and the American people. After all, if “trustworthy” Colin told us that the government had proof and he himself was convinced that Saddam was “in possession of weapons of mass destruction”, it had to be true, didn’t it?

Little did we (or perhaps even he) know that what he told the world that day was inaccurate, exaggerated, or outright fraudulent.

Thanks, Colin. Thanks, George. Thanks, Dick, Rummy, Condi. Thanks, Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike).

And a big hand to the media, who helped make all of this happen.

David Wyles

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What can I say? Hoo yah! Right on! Booga booga! All right!

My less-political sister and brother-in-law saw the Powell speech and said, “Yeah, it was convincing IF you hadn’t been aware of all the contrary info. All by itself, seen in isolation, it was convincing.”

Using Common Dreams, Smirking Chimp, and Counterpunch as my aggregators, I counted 23 Op-Eds specifically tearing Powell’s speech to pieces over the next three days, NONE of which made it into the mainstream press.

Rich Gardner

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Re: GOP Hits Scranton Paper Over Ad

This is one more example of a NeoCon attack on the First Amendment. Granted, they are suing a newspaper that is in a better position than individuals to defend themselves against such tactics. Take a look at this article by Molly Ivins and some of the comments appended to the article.

Melinda Hoehn

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