Friday, February 22, 2008

NYT Editor Responds To Questions On The McCain Hit Piece

Today, the NYT editor, Bill Keller, and others appear in the NYT answering questions on the McCain hit piece sent in by e-mail.


This today from the NYT editor, Bill Keller:

Q. I must say that the McCain article left me embarrassed for your paper. So little substance, but trumpeted prominently as though you somehow had the goods on him or were raising burning questions. It makes it look like your reporters or editors had an ax to grind. I hope they didn't. Question: Do you read the coverage of your coverage? Did you see the piece at ridiculing your paper for this? Doesn't it smart?

A. I think we all expected the reaction to be intense. We knew from our experience last year, when word leaked out we were pursuing this story, that Senator McCain's operatives would set out to change the subject by making the story about The New York Times rather than about their candidate. That's a time-honored tactic for dealing with potentially damaging news stories. . . .

If Mr. Keller thinks that the reaction to their article is because of McCain operatives, I am wondering if he is not the model for the photo at the top of this post? Does the fact that this hit piece has brought out Rush Limbaugh, Laurie Ingram, and just a bevy of folks on the Democratic side (see round-up here) to McCain's defense suggest in any way, shape or form that the reaction is being driven by McCain operatives rather than horrified disdain by the general public for the vague innuendo in this dirt mining operation? Dirt mining is fine and a real public service that journalists provide. But when there is no dirt, publishing the dust and hoping it sticks is goes beyond the bounds of ethical journalism and into the plane today occupied by the NYT.

Keller continues:

A . . . I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot.

And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story. . . .

Anyone who thinks there was a legitimate journalistic purpose behind the innuendo published by the NYT is likely a card carrying member of the George Soros fan club. And does Mr. Keller perhaps seem a bit condescending to the unwashed masses for their inability to see the NYT noble purpose in publishing this McCain hit piece? Amazingly, Mr. Keller freely admits that the purpose of the article was to suggest the appearance of impropirety:

A . . . According to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

Clearly, many of you did not agree.

Its at least nice to see Keller still maintains the ability to speak in understatement.

One of the most commonly heard questions I heard yesterday was, is this all that the NYT has on McCain? Is there nothing else backing up this story but innuendo and anonymous sources? Managing editor Jill Abraramson's answer as to the NYT's decision to go forward with anonymous source suggests they have emptied the dump truck. Dust is still flying, but no mud to be found. Do read the whole article.

I would imagine that the NYT will long rue the decision to run this incredibly ill advised piece on McCain. I will be watching their stock values closely.

1 comment:

Soccer Dad said...

Jill Abramson has her own history on scandal reporting. She was one of the reporters who helped Anita Hill.