Last summer, the New York Times magazine ran a cover story on “The New Hipublicans” – college Republican activists. The article, despite seeming to bend over backwards (likely cowed by the ever-present specter of “liberal media bias”) to paint the kids in as positive a light as possible, came under attack from all corners of the conservative press as another example of how out of touch the Times was when it came to conservatives. As I said at the time, if there was something leery and out of touch about the magazine’s coverage of conservative activists, it was an outgrowth of the Times‘ leery, out of touch approach to activists of any stripe, not to conservatives. One classic example would be the NYT cover story on the Howard Dean movement that so bugged me in December. Another would be today’s front-page piece on anachists, which introduces them by listing off protests at which they’ve been blamed for violence:

Self-described anarchists were blamed for inciting the violence in Seattle at a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in which 500 people were arrested and several businesses damaged. They have been accused by the police of throwing rocks or threatening officers with liquid substances at demonstrations against the Republican convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and at an economic summit meeting in Miami last year. Now, as the Republican National Convention is about to begin in New York City, the police are bracing for the actions of this loosely aligned and often shadowy group of protesters, and consider them the great unknown factor in whether the demonstrations remain under control or veer toward violence and disorder.

No discussion, of course, of the role of New York City police in determining whether demonstrations veer towards violence and disorder. Instead we get this implication that civil disobedience is something to be ashamed of:

But even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience…

And to top it off, a couple paragraphs for John Timoney, who oversaw the unfortunate violence of the police treatment of protesters in Philly and Miami, to blame it all on the activists without anybody to refute him.

Needless to say, a book like Starhawk’s Webs of Power gives a much more grounded, nuanced, relevant portrayal of anarchists and their relationships with other activists. Maybe someone at the Times should read it


Today marks the debut of the New York Times’ Public Editor. This is a concept with which I think few “small d” democrats could take issue, and I’m curious to see how his eighteen-month term plays out. I think it’s fair, however, to express concern, given the Times’ and the rest of the media establishment’s tendency to lend much more credence to the Times’ critics on the right than to its critics on the left, with whether Okrent’s aspirations

to represent you effectively when you have a complaint about The Times’s integrity

will cover the full spectrum of the Times’ readership. Okrent’s suggestion that the media risks

…the boiling resentment toward men and women in power that can arise…

in journalism – that the media is too muckracking – suggests that the bias of a corporate media establishment too often in bed with a corporate political establishment isn’t the top one on his list.

Norman Solomon of FAIR suggests the type of corrections we should be seeing in the news:

For the 958th consecutive week, the Daily Bugle published a Business section each day without ever including a Labor section in the paper. This tacit identification with the interests of capital over the interests of working people is inconsistent with the values of independent journalism. The editors regret this chronic error…

The Daily Bugle published a wire-service story yesterday that flatly reported: “The events of 9/11 changed everything in America.” But Sept. 11 did not really change everything. For instance, widespread hunger among low-income people has persisted in this country. To take another example, 9/11 did not change the society’s basic financial structures, which continue to widen already-huge economic gaps between rich and poor. It is inaccurate and irresponsible journalism to report that “9/11 changed everything.” The Daily Bugle regrets that it has gotten caught up in this media myth…

A news report in the Daily Bugle on Thursday stated that Secretary of State Colin Powell is “a moderate.” This assessment should have been attributed rather than being presented as an objective fact. The lengthy article did not mention Powell’s record of strong efforts for the contra war in Nicaragua, the invasion of Panama, two massive assaults on Iraq and other wars waged by the Pentagon: a record some would contend hardly merits characterization as “moderate.”

…News articles and editorials about regulatory issues related to the media industry have not included the relevant information that the Silverado Newspaper Group, the chain that owns the Daily Bugle, stands to gain or lose millions of dollars in profits depending on the outcome of deregulation proposals. The editor regrets the lack of appropriate disclosure and disclaimers…

The funny thing about media bias is that the bias which identifies itself as such garners the most attention and also presents the least danger. This past year, for example – to switch for a moment to the question of bias in the classroom – my political science professor first semester made a derisive remark at one point about Florida having “cost us the election,” blushed, and apologized. My political science professor second semester devoted a significant part of the course to explaining why criticism of Congress as an institution is borne of lack of understanding of Congress, impatience, and lack of commitment to democracy. The pro-Gore partisan bias is much more likely to be flagged, or potentially to be marshalled as a further anecdote of the liberal bias of the academy. But the pro-Congress ideological bias, precisely because it’s subtle and it doesn’t present itself as one of two or more alternatives, is much more persuasive and problematic. Part of the important work FAIR does is exposing and challenging the unspoken assumptions and fixed paradigms through which the supposedly liberal media filter their narrative.