If NYT ‘Overloved’ Occupy, It Had a Funny Way of Showing It

In his farewell column (8/26/12), New York Times ombud Arthur Brisbane writes:

Arthur Brisbane

Arthur Brisbane

Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism–for lack of a better term–that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of the Times.

Well, maybe we need a better term.

Brisbane provides two examples of this supposed progressive bleeding:

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in the Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

The Occupy Wall Street movement “seem[ed] almost to erupt in the Times“? Actually, when the occupation began, the Times, like other corporate news outlets, virtually ignored the story (Action Alert, 9/23/11):

The anti-corporate protests have been lightly covered in the hometown New York Times: One piece (9/18/11) largely about how the police blocked access to Wall Street, and one photo (9/22/11) with the caption “Wall Street Protest Whirls On.”

When U.S. media finally recognized that the OWS movement was a significant story that needed to be covered (Extra!11/11), the Times didn’t show any particular signs of overloving it:

Extra!, November 2011
A September 27 New York Times piece (FAIR Blog, 9/28/11) seemed to defend the police force’s brutal response, with reporter Joseph Goldstein depicting a police department concerned about “terrorism” and the “destruction and violence” that supposedly accompany “anti-capitalist demonstrations.” Such police worries, according to Goldstein, “came up against a perhaps milder reality on Saturday, when their efforts to maintain crowd control suddenly escalated”–an oddly passive way to describe police use of pepper spray and body slams against nonviolent demonstrators.

Goldstein wrote that the protesters “seem unorganized and, at times, uninformed.”… Condescension was a common thread in much of the coverage. In another New York Times piece (9/25/11), reporter Ginia Bellafante derided the “intellectual vacuum” of the protests, and their “apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it.” She described one protester as a “half-naked woman…with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968.”

Even after OWS had been acknowledged across corporate media as a major story (Media Advisory, 10/18/11), Times writers just couldn’t help revealing how annoyed they were by the whole thing.

In the New York Times (10/17/11), former executive editor Bill Keller devoted a column about the “good news” happening around in the world–none of which has to do with the global movement against inequality: “Bored by the soggy sleep-ins and warmed-over anarchism of Occupy Wall Street?” Keller asks, before cheering Slovakia’s position on European Union bailout, which has done more “than the cumulative protests of Occupy Wall Street have done in a month of poster-waving.” A column by the Times‘ David Brooks (10/11/11) dismissed the protesters as “Milquetoast Radicals.”

A column by Andrew Ross Sorkin (10/4/11; FAIR Blog, 10/4/11) provides a better illustration of what Brisbane calls the “culture of like minds” that actually dominates  the Paper of Record than the ombud’s fantasy of a leftie “hive on Eighth Avenue”:

I had gone down to Zuccotti Park to see the activist movement firsthand after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank last week, before nearly 700 people were arrested over the weekend during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge.

‘Is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal?” the CEO asked me. I didn’t have an answer. “We’re trying to figure out how much we should be worried about all of this,” he continued, clearly concerned. “Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”

As I wandered around the park, it was clear to me that most bankers probably don’t have to worry about being in imminent personal danger. This didn’t seem like a brutal group–at least not yet.

If you haven’t figured out that the New York Times is roughly 10,000 times more interested in producing news that’s of use to CEOs than it is in being helpful to anti-corporate activists, then your value as an analyst of the paper’s content is really quite limited.

P.S. They hire the kind of people they want to hire for this public editor job. Brisbane’s predecessor Daniel Okrent (5/25/04) wrote a similar goodbye column. Among the evidence he offered for the paper’s left-wing tilt:

The culture pages often feature forms of art, dance or theater that may pass for normal (or at least tolerable) in New York but might be pretty shocking in other places.



About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.