Saturday, December 04, 2004

Times Moves From Right to Left

Before Otis Chandler became publisher of The Times in 1961, the newspaper was known as unfairly Republican. When Kyle Palmer was political editor, in fact, The Times seldom covered the Democrats. The story is told of a delegation of Democrats coming down to the paper and asking to see Palmer. He came downstairs and leaned over the rail that used to mark the entrance in those days, and demanded in a peremptory tone: "Now what do you want?"

Times have changed. For the most part, the news coverage remains fairly straight. But the editorial pages are now as sharply to the Left as they once were to the Right. And just as before, they cost the paper credibility.

Now, it has become representatives of the Jewish community who have come downtown to remonstrate with editors over Times editorial policy, persistently anti-Israel. But like the Democrats of yore, many of the Jewish leaders have concluded it is pointless to argue. Times editorial pages are devotedly biased and are going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Recently, since Michael Kinsley took over the editorial pages, the situation has gotten worse. Kinsley didn't deign to so much as congratulate President Bush on his victory, before going on to whine about his policies. Kinsley writes a weekly column that echoes Bob Scheer, but I don't think he conveys as much sincerity as Bob Scheer. Together, the two have hijacked the editorial pages. It wouldn't be as bad, if they had shrill writers from the Right as well. But the Rightists that are used are usually bland and respectable.

It's all costing The Times a lot. The late wise editorial page editor and later executive editor of the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Norman Cherniss, once declared, "You can't scream everyday and keep people reading." The Times editorial pages do scream too frequently. We are back to the pre-Otis days, only at the opposite extreme.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the LAT is one of the few newspapers covering the Mideast with even a modicum of balance. Tracy Wilkinson,in particular, displays understanding and fairness in covering Palestinian issues.. While reporting both sides of the conflict is perceived by some as anti-Israel, it's no more anti-Israel than covering Democrats is anti-Republican .

12/04/2004 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the people running the LAT's editorial pages are too liberal, I wonder if they're at least inadvertantly going to end up rallying around ideas, politicians and policies that further the decline of their own community, and consequently the downfall of their own newspaper?

The coverage of the mess at King Hospital by the LAT is good and candid, but in too many other instances people at the Times or in the media in general aren't comfortable if a story or event doesn't mesh with a politically-correct way of thinking. If their community erodes like a bigger version of a hospital in south LA, are they then going to get in their cars and head for the hills, assuming they're not already unemployed?

12/06/2004 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Translation: the Times is too far left for Ken Reich. Scheer and Kinsley are hardly "shrill." Whether you agree with them or not, they express their opinions with articulate restraint, backed up with solid information. I don't find opposition to the Iraq debacle, or to environmental degradation, to be "leftist" positions, and few reasoning people do. I think it is terrific that the lone major newspaper in Los Angeles has shifted away from decades' worth of right and "centrist" (read: inconsequential) editorializing and is now taking bravely challenging positions. As for Reich's disappointment that Kinsley did not congratulate Bush on his victory, this is the sort of "gentlemantly" good-sport non-issue that clutters up the business at hand. What reason is there to congratulate a man who has bankrupted the country, earned the enmity of most of the world, destroys environmental law on behalf of corporate profiteering, allowed John Kerry to be portrayed as a coward and war criminal, and panders to the lunatic so-called "Christian" right? This is not merely a conservative president, with the country taking a temporary shift to the right. Even traditional conservatives agree that this is a radical extremist religious fanatic appointed to office by a radical extremist Supreme Court, and that the country is in very grave trouble. I am very pleased that the Times recognizes this to be the case.

12/06/2004 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Ken and another poster here that the King/Drew series is great. If only the Times would cover other topics involving race as aggressively, rather than reacting with politically correct, superficial coverage. My main argument with Ken about his assertion that LAT has moved too far to the left is that it's obvious it's NOT just on the opinion pages. Writers in Calendar, section A and California all routinely insert their own liberal biases (and, surely, those of their editors) into pieces that should be balanced. Calendar writers write as if they're writing screeds for the LA Weekly. And if you don't think Scheer is "shrill," your hearing must be damaged.

12/07/2004 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>It wouldn't be as bad, if they had shrill writers from the Right as well. But the Rightists that are used are bland and respectable.

Guess you missed the nearly hate speech op-ed piece by former baseball pitcher Frank Pastore.

12/07/2004 3:36 PM  
Blogger lloyd said...

My sister's family just dropped their subscription, citing the continual liberal bias in NEWS stories. And they are very much newpaper consumers and dislike having to do without. Somewhere, somehow, a viable alternative or alternatives will arise. Maybe biefed up right of center community newpapers with shared content, maybe a well financed internet only paper, possibly a brand new LA paper ala New York Sun. I actually think the leftward tilt of LAT and inevitable creation of right of center competition will be beneficial for everyone. Maybe not smart for LAT but the train has left the station.

12/09/2004 10:37 AM  
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