July 17, 2005

New York Times Running Out?

NOTE: Most, and perhaps all, NY Times links require registration.
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Nadagate seems to have played out, and barring a shock I don’t anticipate, has resulted in a big fat nothing.

What is Nadagate? It’s the name given by a clever writer to the non-scandal about which I refuse to blog in detail. Its main players, whose full names I refuse to type, have the initials KR, JW, VP, JM, and MC. For the blessed among you who have somehow managed not to hear of it, today’s Manchester Union Leader’s seven-paragraph editorial has all you’ll ever need to know about the non-event that has been an obsession of the Mainstream Media, and especially its Washington press corps, for two years.

The Nadagate non-scandal has inflicted further hits to the credibility of the Big Three television networks (as if they care). Perhaps more important, it is another body blow to the national viability of that centerpiece of the mainstream print media, The New York Times.

To show how silly and pitiful this has all been: The person who has coined the term Nadagate is none other than John Tierney, op-ed columnist for …… The New York Times! (HT to Poor and Stupid)

The recent chronicle of The Times’ ever-steeper downhill slide has these lowlights (many more could be enumerated, but the following are enough):

  • The firing of Jayson Blair in May 2003, after, in The Times’ words, he:

    “misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He stole material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression that he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.”

    The Times chronicled the sordid errors of Blair in a 14,000-word article, and told us that five reporters and a team of researchers had been assigned to investigate and document the case. At least two news executives were fired for coddling Blair and ignoring warning signs of his incompetence.

  • The paper’s coverage of what has come to be known as Rathergate, the tale of George W. Bush’s supposedly less-than-perfect Texas Air National Guard service that relied on typed memos prepared after-the-fact in Microsoft Word that CBS reporters attempted to pass off as being from the early 1970s. The Times infamously characterized these memos as “fake but accurate” in a mid-September 2004 story.
  • The false October 2004 story about the missing weapons cache in Iraq that was debunked by NBC within 24 hours.

And now Nadagate, which may be the worst of the bunch. First, for its total lack of perspective (HT to Varifrank):

In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been another story where the press could not care more and the average guy could not care less?

But more tellingly, Nadagate reveals not only The Times’ naked partisanship, which most readers and observers take for granted, but its rarely visible (yet always present) contempt for the law when attempts are made to enforce it on them.

In the course of Nadagate, a Times reporter (JM) has been ordered by the courts to reveal the name of a confidential source. JM, backed by Times’ management, has refused, even though the source has given JM permission to reveal his/her name. All appeals, including to The Supreme Court, have failed. The Times and JM still won’t comply. JM is in jail (after pleading for home incarceration–talk about chutzpah). The Times doesn’t even begin to acknowledge that it has larger responsibilities (bold is mine):

As the national “paper of record”, the New York Times has obligations not only to its readers, its writers, and its sources, as well as its brothers-in-arms in the worldwide media, but to all Americans. Devotees of the Times are invited to place their trust in the paper’s reports, its editorials — and its integrity.

It’s a shame, then, that the paper has gone so far out on a limb ….. in naked pursuit of two paramount objectives, to the exclusion of all others: uncompromisingly defending the inviolability of reportorial privilege and relentlessly excoriating the Bush administration.

But — and here’s the rub — journalists need not comply with the legal prerogatives of the investigators, says the Times, even if the Supreme Court itself declares that they must. This disconnect — in which the paper seems to believe that it and its reporters are above the law — will erode the trust that the public vests in Big Media.

Bingo. A large and growing portion of the public already does not trust Big Media, and rightfully so. Though I can’t find a link at the moment (found–see Update below), I seem to recall that The Times has gone from the most trusted news source in the world to Number 6 in just a couple of years (The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal are now Numbers 1 and 2). Speaking of responsibility, The Times’ downfall trickles down (ironic term) to the Big Three networks, and to the smaller newspapers, television stations, and radio outlets that rely on it for fair and accurate national and international news reporting. This (along with technological developments, of course) helps to explain the general decline in newspaper circulation and the declining viewership of the Big Three networks’ nightly newscasts.

On top of all of this, The New York Times is a publicly-held company (symbol NYT). It has a responsibility to attempt to earn a reasonable return for its investors.

How is it doing in that area? Two words–not well: The stock has taken a 40% dive, from its June 20, 2002 high of $52.79 to a Friday close at $31.20. The Times’ daily and Sunday circulations both declined more than 3% between March 2002 and March 2005. Its other major newpaper property, The Boston Globe, has experienced similar hits to its credibility in the past five years and has seen its circulation decline even more steeply.

Do they care? Apparently not. While there will always be tension between newsroom and business priorities (all kinds of stories have the potential of ticking off advertisers), The Times attitude appears to be “the investors be damned” (HT #2 to Poor and Stupid):

Daniel Okrent, a former Times public editor, stresses that his old employer “has the freedom to take positions that they deem to be in the interest of journalism without fear of the reaction of public stockholders.”

All of this makes me wonder how many years it will take for The Times to transform itself into an alternative newpaper read only in Manhattan and at DNC headquarters in Washington. It seems to be working very hard every day to make it happen.

If you are or are thinking about being an NYT stockholder, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.
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UPDATE: Porkopolis comments below about the Fox Grapevine story on newspaper reputation. Here is the excerpt he is referring to:

Speaking of the Times, the Gray Lady has slipped to sixth in a list of the world’s best newspapers.

A global poll of journalists, politicians, and business executives named London’s Financial Times the best paper on Earth, followed closely by the Wall Street Journal and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine. The Times was named the world’s premiere paper in 2003, when 21 percent of those surveyed called it the best, but just 8 percent made the same claim in this year’s poll.

Porkopolis also has a great piece on yet another NYT game of hide-and-seek with the truth.
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UPDATE 2: Geez, you leave the computer for a few hours and get…..an Instalanche! Welcome Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for the link.

Comments are moderated, so be patient, especially in the wee AM Eastern Time hours. Thanks.
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UPDATE 3: An e-mailer who owns NYT and Washington Post Company shares makes the following excellent point:

I think you’ve overlooked one key factor in their seeming high-handed attitude toward the public shareholders: namely, they don’t have to care, since the companies can’t be taken over.

Check the 10-Ks for each company. Both companies are controlled by trusts for the benefit of the Sulzbergers (NYT) or Grahams (WaPo), in which a small percentage of the capital stock has super-voting rights. This allows the companies to “remain independent.” It also effectively insulates them from any pesky shareholders that would bother them with nasty ol’ proxy fights and the like.

For NYT, I did go to the 10-K, which referred me to the Proxy Statement, which confirms the e-mailer’s point (the family stock elects a majority of the Board of Directors), and contains this howler (Page 3, third paragraph):

The primary objective of the 1997 Trust (which maintained family control–Ed.) is to maintain the editorial independence and the integrity of The New York Times and to continue it as an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence and unselfishly devoted to the public welfare.

Can’t say they don’t have a sense of humor.
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UPDATE 4: Pamela at Trey Jackson suggests subscribing to The New York Sun.

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28 Comments

  1. Tom:

    I heard about the poll with the NY Times on Special Report with Fox News. Here’s a link to the Political Grapevine for July 5, 2005..

    You might be interested in my fisking of the Times Public Editor in my post entitiled ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave’.

    Comment by Porkopolis — July 17, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

  2. Thanks for the info, and update on that story, which I though they resolved a while ago. Should have known better.

    I hope Fox keeps its links up for a while.

    Comment by TBlumer — July 17, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  3. In New York, Scrappy Local Newspaper Struggles For Survival

    That was the headline of a typically witty Iowahawk satire of the history of the Gray Lady. But Tom Blumer, who runs Bizzyblog says that bizzy–err, business–hasn’t been too good lately at 229 West 43rd Street:The New York Times is…

    Trackback by Ed Driscoll.com — July 17, 2005 @ 11:24 pm

  4. Great thoughts. I have some similar comments.

    NYT Pecking Order–Shareholders Last

    Thanks,

    Jack Risko

    Comment by jack risko — July 17, 2005 @ 11:49 pm

  5. Thanks for the number 3 trackback and the number 4 link.

    Especially appreciate Dinocrat’s point about the 1/3 drop in home market circulation from 1993-2004. Astounding. Assuming your figures are for the daily and not Sunday, The Times has about the same number of subscribers outside its home market than it does inside.

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 12:07 am

  6. JM, backed by Times’ management, has refused, even though the source has given JM permission to reveal his/her name.

    You are assuming, of course, that JM’s source was the same as MC. Since JM is still sitting in a jail cell (even though she never wrote on the subject), it is quite likely that her source was someone else, someone who has *not* released her to reveal the source’s identity.

    In any case, it is all a tempest in a teacup, since VP was no longer a covert agent (if in fact she ever had been one), and MSNBC has it on record that VP’s identity and employer were no secret in Washington.

    Comment by timekeeper — July 18, 2005 @ 12:40 am

  7. You may be right, but I didn’t think so, and your tempest in tea cup point, plus my overall disgust with Nadagate, causes me to not care. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the comment, which I do.

    That’s it–it’s a left-wing plot to get right-wingers so disgusted with the news that they stop watching and listening. (/half-kidding)

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 12:50 am

  8. For me, the NY Times’s slide began a year earlier, with its full-court press on the Augusta National Golf Club’s failure to admit women members. It spent reader capital on dozens of articles and editorials on this story.

    Comment by Nancy — July 18, 2005 @ 5:15 am

  9. The NY Times’ is thinking national with their circulation. They are trying to sell to college students and various and sundry libs in the ether to avoid confronting sagging circulation. This “finger in the dike” circulation fix won’t last for long when the numbers flatline. By then they will basically have hung themselves.

    Comment by Market Strategy — July 18, 2005 @ 5:47 am

  10. If the NY Times cannot interest its readers in false, fabricated, arcane, or other DNC stories, perhaps it needs to elect a new readership.

    Comment by Kevin — July 18, 2005 @ 7:24 am

  11. I am growing more and more tired of the old media. Fake but accurate seems to be its signature, and the idiots in old journalism these days don’t even know what “begging the question” means anymore. Imbecile graduates of J School marching to the daily talking points. It is time for a major cleanup operation.

    Comment by Raskatosk — July 18, 2005 @ 7:59 am

  12. You forgot to mention the Times myopic attempt to make Martha Burk’s protest of Augusta National into a huge national story only to see just 23 people show up at the actual protest (the most famous was Heywood Jablowme). There were more press than protesters and the story quickly became – who thought this was important and why? The Times was exposed for trying to fabricate a crusade and their reputation was again tarnished.

    Comment by chris — July 18, 2005 @ 8:00 am

  13. Good reminder about Augusta. That was an important lowlight, because even sports junkies who don’t pay much attention to hard news were shown that The Times is all about The Agenda.

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 8:07 am

  14. [...] Dick Durbins adventure into the fever swamps? And now these predictions are coming true. BizzyBlog has some data that shows the fall the NYTimes has already had (hat tip: Instapundit) On top of all of [...]

    Pingback by The Strata-Sphere » Blog Archive » MSM Losing Value — July 18, 2005 @ 8:16 am

  15. Your piece would be a bit more effective were it more grounded in non-political reality than it is.

    A few facts: this is not about “nada.” The CIA initiated the investigation of the leak of Joe Wilson’s wife’s name BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED A CRIME MIGHT HAVE BEEN COMMITTED.

    The U.S. Attorney investigating the leak of classified information — which is a crime — himself said “this is not about a whistleblower [i.e., Rove], but about retaliation against a whistleblower [i.e., against Joe Wilson.].”

    It’s understandable, from a human psychology perspective, that you’d wish to see all this go away (hence your supressing the names involved, et cetera; much like we supress unpleasant facts that happen to us in our lives).

    But what will you do if — and I do mean if, not when — U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgeral returns indictments against members of the Bush administration?

    Have some guts to stand up for what’s RIGHT — not just what’s politically ‘right.’

    Comment by JStephens — July 18, 2005 @ 8:45 am

  16. #15, I quoted Tierney, an NYT op-ed guy, and your beef is with him.

    Read the 7 paragraphs at the Manchester Union Leader link.

    My first sentence of this post is “Nadagate seems to have played out, and barring a shock I don’t anticipate, has resulted in a big fat nothing.” I’ve covered myself if indictments come, so chill the lecture. The purpose of the post isn’t to take a stand, it’s at least partially to wonder at:

    - what, “barring a shock,” is the biggest non-news story I have ever seen

    - at the people, especially at The Times (which started this mess by giving a congenital liar precious editorial column-inches), who just can’t acknowledge that (“barring a shock”) there’s nothing there, and that even if there is, the 16 words were, and still are, true.

    - the losers who badger the WH press secretary like THEY are the opposition party.

    UPDATE: Read this, ha–

    CIA officer named prior to column

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 9:05 am

  17. In your dreams! For all its shortcomings, the NY Times will be around a very long time and will be read by people for a very long time. Qucik quiz: want to know what is on best selling book lists? You go to NY Times. Theatre? NY Times. Arts? NY Times etc etc etc
    Sure, for sports, you can go elsewhere; for biz, you can find other spots. But for all around interesting things, the NY Times. Period.

    Comment by fred lapides — July 18, 2005 @ 9:24 am

  18. Fred L

    You tell us’n Yahoos that

    “for all around interesting things, the NY Times. Period.”

    Trouble is, to paraphrase some great thinker whose name escapes me, what’s interesting in the NYT is not unique, & what’s unique in the NYT is not interesting.

    And, I see that you never mentioned “truth”.

    So what are you telling us philistines? The NYT: interesting fiction! Newsflash: the NYT purports to be relating fact. Like we need fairy tales as if we were children. Like we need BS to enrich our dull lives!

    TomCom

    Comment by TomCom — July 18, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  19. Clearly the NYT (along with the whole newspaper industry) is in steep decline. However, it is useful to focus on what Nadagate is actually about (ie what the Special Prosecutor is doing). Clearly, it is not about the Valerie Plame leak. More likely it is about a conspiracy within the CIA to produce bad information about a national security issue and then use it to discredit a president just prior to an election. If in fact that is the case, and the NYT and other media outlets are complicite, there is a lot more to be heard about this story and it is not “Nadagate” at all…

    Comment by Jake — July 18, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

  20. I think all you need to know about nadagate is this: if the NY Times and Time magazine had substantial information going back 2 years that could have taken out KR, why didn’t they use this info last year to take Rove out prior to the election?

    Comment by Mike — July 18, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

  21. I too much time on my hands.I’m commenting on cmments.
    First,For JStephens;I really don’t think anyone thinks the author who uses initials is trying to repress memories.You should be careful about ascribing psychological motives;itmakes you look like you’re trying too hard.
    Secondly, although I still read the Times,I do question its honesty,which is something I’d have thought sacriligious at one time.I do want to point out that although the Time and Wa PO are controlled by trusts it and beyond public investors ire they’re not beyond displeasure directed by family members.The Ford family moved to put Bill Ford as the actual(and not titular) head of the company some years ago because the company was in big trouble.If the stock price continues to drop people whose votes count(and don’t want to have to work for a livig) may get involved.

    Comment by colin — July 18, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

  22. Its main players, whose full names I refuse to type, have the initials KR, JW, VP, JM, and MC.

    What about RN? Why are you giving RN a free pass?

    Comment by Jason Sonenshein — July 18, 2005 @ 9:17 pm

  23. Richard Nixon? Republic of Niger?
    I missed YC also (Yellow Cake)

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  24. is there a way to make your font bigger? my middle aged eyes cannot read it

    Comment by karin — July 18, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

  25. I will ask my web guy to work on that. Sorry for the difficulty. In the meantime, most browsers have commands for increasing the font size. Look under View and look for something like “text size.”

    Comment by TBlumer — July 19, 2005 @ 12:30 am

  26. You know, RN, a certain conservative columnist who published VP’s identity, but, unlike MC and JM, wasn’t threatened with jail time. Don’t worry. You’re not the only one giving RN a free pass.

    Comment by Jason Sonenshein — July 19, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

  27. RN has been subjected to the anal exam to end all anal exams for two years. I see of no circumstance where he’s got a problem.

    Back when it looked like RN was vulnerable, a lot of writers wanted to subject RN to the kinds of things that now think JM and MC should not have endured. Fitzgerald has apparently concluded RN has done no wrong, but the press can’t handle it. Big, time, typical, hypocrisy.

    But I should have remembered RN’s initials, though as you note his name has been seldom mentioned for quite some time.

    Comment by TBlumer — July 20, 2005 @ 12:00 am

  28. [...] ss” isn’t entitled to any more “privilege” than you or I. UPDATE: More of the same, very well done. This entry was posted on Sunday, July 1 [...]

    Pingback by LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION -- Not So Plain Dealing — March 19, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

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