Man Without Qualities

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Times, They Have A-Change-ed (I Think)

An astute reader e-mails about this correction by the New York Times to an earlier Times story that included a nasty quote from an unnamed source. The correction includes this bizarre assertion:
The Times's policy does not permit the granting of anonymity to confidential news sources "as cover for a personal or partisan attack." In fairness the quotation should not have appeared.
My astute reader observes:
Is it possible to name one leak in the Times which doesn't fit one of these two rubrics? Oh, sure, the occasional whistleblowing saint, of course, but those never get The Times in hot waterÂ? only "personal or partisan attack[s]."
Can it be that the Times really fails to understand that the nameless leaks it exploits - especially in the political arena - are overwhelmingly provided by people engaged in a "personal or partisan attack?" How witless can the Timespeople be?

Aside from understanding that its supposed "policy" is hugely honored in the breech, the Times shouldn't care if a nameless leak is motivated by a "personal or partisan attack" in the first place. Such a motivation may be grounds for requiring extra verification of the leaker's assertions. But the Times should be in the business of broadly reporting facts and news because that is what the Times leads its readers to believe the Times is in fact doing. If some newsworthy fact happens to be lobbed into the Times' possession as part of a nameless "personal or partisan attack," and that fact can be adequately substantiated, then I say - and the Times' readers expect that - laissez les bon temps rouler! For example, Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat," is widely believed to have been motivated by a desire to launch a really nasty "personal and partisan attack" - but just as widely believed to have benefitted the country with his unattributed information stream. But the Times' says its alleged "policy" would prevent it from including Mr. Felt's contribution unless he had agreed to be named. Who at the Times is writing this stuff?

In sum: It appears that the Times fails to understands its own policy, its own business and its own readership. Trifecta.

It is unceasingly amazing just how lacking in insight and self-understanding the Times has become. I have to believe that at some point in the past the people running the Times were actually aware of what they were doing when they built the paper into a hugely influential machine. But that time has long past. The current crop of Timespeople resembles some bizarre version of Eloi and Morlocks.


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