Friday, February 22, 2008

Keller's Low Standards are Destroying The New York Times

Under a relentless attack from both conservative and liberal corners alike, The New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller sought refuge in the warm confines of National Public Radio to defend the Time's bizarre decision to run a vague and vapid story attacking John McCain on the front page of the Times, above the fold.

The biggest problem with the story is that it is extremely misleading, implying both an extra marital affair and improper favors given to lobbyists, especially the alleged paramour named in the article, lobbyist Vicki Iseman.

As I
discussed last night, the sensational and splashy article actually contained almost no facts. It's all smoke and mirrors and frankly there's damned little smoke.

And while NPR attempted to be fair to Keller in articles and audio interviews this morning, Keller's explanations are as vapid as the article itself. It's hard to defend a story with no basis, and Keller fails miserably in his defense.

Here is Keller's explanation from
David Folkenflik's story on the NPR website:

"If, hypothetically, we had established that he had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist — and had done favors for that lobbyist — that would have been a different story," he [Keller] says.

But the newspaper was not able to confirm any relationship. Instead, Keller tells NPR that the article that ran Thursday morning provided a slightly different insight into one of the nation's leading candidates for president.

"It's not a 'gotcha' story about some kind of quid pro quo," he says. "We don't know if there was a quid or a quo in this case.

In other words, it's an eight year old story about nothing.

And that deserved a feature position above the fold on page one? A breathlessly written gotcha story with no facts? Right next to an unusually large and splashy photo of Barack Obama?

Bill, all you proved today is that you are unfit to make judgements about news stories. I
repeat my call for your resignation for the good of the Times.


Vigilante said...

Wizard, I originally posted along the same lines

But I Trust in God and the NYT:

In 1998, Senator John McCain sent an unusually blunt letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission, warning that he would try to overhaul the agency if it closed a broadcast ownership loophole.

McCain urged the commission to abandon plans to close a loophole vitally important to Glencairn Ltd., a client of Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist. The provision enabled one of the nation’s largest broadcasting companies, Sinclair, to use a marketing agreement with Glencairn, a far smaller broadcaster, to get around a restriction barring single ownership of two television stations in the same city.

McCain spokesmen say that the Senator ... was merely directing the commission to “not act in a manner contradictory to Congressional intent.” Mr. McCain wrote in the letters that a 1996 law, the telecommunications act, required the loophole; a legal opinion by the staff of the commission took the opposite view.

A review of the record, including agency records now at the National Archives and interviews with participants, shows that Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, played a significant role in killing the plan to eliminate the loophole.

This story has legs, indeed. Long legs. But they're just not Iseman's legs.

Bob Keller said...

Far from pointing to a ten year old fully reported and analyzed story that does more to illustrate McCain's independence and integrity than his bowing to lobbyists, Clark Hoyt, the New York Times Public Editor, roundly condemned his own newspaper today.

Clark wrote in a rare front page editorial today, "The article had repercussions for both McCain and The Times. He may benefit, at least in the short run, from a conservative backlash against the “liberal” New York Times. The newspaper found itself in the uncomfortable position of being the story as much as publishing the story, in large part because, although it raised one of the most toxic subjects in politics — sex — it offered readers no proof that McCain and Iseman had a romance."

Read Clark's entire editorial here.

Vigilante said...

You're on point, Wiz.

here's The nub of it:

The pity of it is that, without the sex, The Times was on to a good story. McCain, who was reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee in 1991 for exercising “poor judgment” by intervening with federal regulators on behalf of a corrupt savings and loan executive, recast himself as a crusader against special interests and the corrupting influence of money in politics. Yet he has continued to maintain complex relationships with lobbyists like Iseman, at whose request he wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to urge a speed-up on a decision affecting one of her clients.

It's another case of undisciplined messaging backfiring on the story.