As the Republican National Convention gets underway in Tampa, one of the leading sources of news about it will be the once-venerable New York Times. The Times is legendary for the extraordinary reach of its reportage, its sheer size as a paper, and the enormity of its audience, at home and abroad.
In recent decades, however, the Times has become equally well-known for the strident, invasive bias of much of its reporting. The former Ombudsman of the Times, Daniel Okrent, famously wrote in 2004:
Is the New York Times a liberal paper? Of course it is ... if you are among the groups the Times treats as strange objects to be examined on a laboratory slide (devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans)... then a walk through this paper can make you feel you're traveling in a strange and forbidding world ... readers with a different worldview will find The Times an alien beast.
Now, Okrent's successor, Arthur S. Brisbane, has affirmed the same thing. In his valedictory column, published this past Sunday, he writes:
When the Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the papers 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. 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.
That the Times permits publication of these spasms of editorial candor is honorable, even courageous. And the Times now features the op-eds of the brilliant young conservative Ross Douthat along with the center-right musings of David Brooks.
Yet the pervasive bias of the Times - self-consciously urbane, post-moral, socially liberal to the point of astonished clucking that any reasonable person could disagree - runs through the paper like blood through the body.
Why is this important? Because in its coverage of such issues as homosexual "marriage," abortion, religious liberty at home and abroad, the federal judiciary, the social policies of the Obama Administration, and even the federal budget, the Times both influences the national debate and offers a perspective very distant from that of most Americans. Were the Times just another large regional paper, it could be dismissed as but one more liberal rag. Instead, policymakers still read the Times as a trusted source of information. At least they used to.
Readers of the Times have always looked to the paper for extensive coverage of the monumental and the mundane, the historic and the idiosyncratic. The caliber of the writing in much of the Times is superb. That's why the "Gray Lady's" decline into a shrinking but bellowing parody of reactionary liberalism is as sad as it is obvious.