Monday, June 11, 2007

New York Times Raps Murdoch, And Itself

Sunday, June 10, was an unusually candid day for the New York Times. In an outspoken editorial, it defended a-competitor, the Wall Street Journal, against the Rupert Murdoch raid, speaking up against a sale of the Dow Jones Co. to the right wing newspaper and television magnate.

Then, in the same Week in Review section, the new public editor of the Times, Clark Hoyt, indicated that the editors of the paper might well have been wrong last weekend to play the news of an alleged Islamic plot to burn facilities at the John F. Kennedy Airport on Page 30 rather than on Page 1. It's an auspicious start for Hoyt.

The L.A. Times fitfully sometimes runs adverse stories about itself, or rather the Tribune Co. ownership that has brought so much ruination on the newspaper. On the other hand, the LAT
ran just three paltry letters protesting the termination of longtime Times columnist Al Martinez, when it had received hundreds, maybe as many as 2,000. The New York Times is prone to go deeper with self-criticism, and the "public editor" often provides the means.

The NYT is on its third public editor, and I don't imagine any of them have been all that popular with the regular editors. After all, many news reporters and editors are very defensive. They are used to dishing it out to all types of public figures, but they don't enjoy being criticized themselves.

Hoyt, on Sunday, elicited an admission from John Geddes, a NYT managing editor, that if he had to do it all over again, he might have put the Kennedy plot story on Page 1, even though he did feel federal prosecutors may have overplayed the threat.

Hoyt remarked in the conclusion of his column, "Domestic terrorism is a frightening -- and now very political -- issue. Newspapers cannot take sometimes overheated rhetoric from public officials at face value. But they have to be careful not to appear indifferent to plots that, allowed to mature, could pose real threats of death and destruction."

It was striking that the NYT played the Kennedy story on Page 30, while the Washington Post, published in a city 240 miles away, published it as the lead story on Page 1. And, I think, the L.A. Times did too.

As for the Murdoch bid for the Wall Street Journal, the NYT editorial said, "Editorial pages generally do not compliment the competition, but today we write in praise of The Wall Street Journal."

Murdoch, it accurately noted, as media columnist Tim Rutten has in the Los Angeles Times, "reneged on his vow to leave news operations alone, such as at The Times of London (after he bought that paper), or when his conglomerate canceled a book and stopped carrying the BBC news by satellite to curry favor in China." The Times editorial made it clear, the NYT editors hope the Wall Street Journal will not be sold to Murdoch.

Amen!

--

I haven't been very impressed with the revamped Los Angeles Times Sunday travel section, which has seemed to represent another Tribune Co. cutback at the paper. But fair is fair and the travel section's page devoted to Seattle's Pike Place Market yesterday provided an excellent map and description as to what is to be found there, at one of the world's great markets.

The graphics, the page said, were prepared by Eric Lucas, "Special to the Times," which meant that Lucas is not on the regular staff.

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