February 25, 2003

Politics Creeps Into NY Times Technology Stories

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over the past few months, CTDATA has pointed out several instances of political bias in general news coverage in The New York Times. Up to now, I have read the technology articles in the Times relatively uncritically, because I didn't think there were many reasons to spin this subject matter."

"That was until I read Deal May Freshen Up Google's Links, an article that is ostensibly about Google's acquisition of Pyra Labs, the provider of Blogger. Midway through the article, it talks about the development of Google News in a way that is self-serving to The New York Times and establishment journalism:"

Google's attempt to automate news gathering on its news page ( is still under development but has already earned some ridicule from journalists. Google News scans some 4,000 news sites and compiles a page of links, using clues like the content and placement of articles to arrange headlines. The page resembles other news sites, but there have been glitches. For example, Google News was more than an hour behind human-powered sites and Yahoo News with word of the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia.

Dave Aiello continued, "I was scanning the web for news of the Columbia disintegration at the time, and my recollection is that Google News was not terribly late with the Columbia story. Furthermore, on that Saturday morning, most news site home pages did not say that the Columbia had been lost until after The Drudge Report put up its siren at 9:38am Eastern Time."

"But, all of this wouldn't matter if David Gallagher attributed the ridicule that he says Google News has received from journalists to an actual journalist. By saying this without attribution, I have to conclude that this is his opinion, or that of his editors. He also should have consulted an Internet expert to provide another point of view that might have provided context to the alleged ridicule."

"This is exactly the kind of media bias that Bernard Goldberg railed against in his groundbreaking book
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News
. Gallagher's article subtly reinforces the media's contention that the public should not look at the Internet for news without first having it filtered through editors at places like The New York Times. By extension, the article itself is a swipe at the concept of weblogging, because weblogging is primarily done by non-journalists who by the media's definition do not exercise proper editorial judgement."

"So, I'll be reading New York Times technology articles much more carefully in the future. The question that I'm still struggling with is why should I have to?"

Update by Dave Aiello: Doc Searls pointed to this article and added a lengthy and thoughtful critique at his own website. Doc has actually met David Gallagher. He says that Gallagher blogs himself and freelances for the Times. He says Gallagher's a nice guy.

I can only react to what I read in print in this case, and I consider the point about Google News to be an opinion in the midst of a news story. That's been a problem in a number of cases at the New York Times recently. So, to some extent, David Gallagher stumbled over a reader who already had his antenna up, and probably wouldn't have gotten this response from me if his piece had been published elsewhere.

February 3, 2003

Rush Limbaugh: Placement of European Allies' Joint Statement is a Political Message in Itself

On Monday, Rush Limbaugh came back for one day in the midst of a planned vacation to provide his listeners with his take on the major events of the past week. He made one particularly interesting comment in connection with the January 30 statement from the leaders of eight European countries supporting the U.S. position on the impending war with Iraq: The statement's placement in The Wall Street Journal was, in and of itself, an important political statement.

According to Limbaugh, in the past, this sort of open letter would have appeared in The New York Times. However, that newspaper has made no secret of its view that Europe is united in oppsition to the U.S.'s effort to depose the current government in Iraq as soon as possible. Furthermore, many conservatives feel that the Times' news stories are written from a viewpoint that excludes evidence that contradicts their editorial position. So, the conclusion that Limbaugh made is nothing if not reasonable.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page also pointed out the controversy over the joint statement that has arisen in liberal media circles:

Our sin seems to be that we assisted in exposing as fraudulent the conventional wisdom that France and Germany speak for all of Europe, and that all of Europe is now anti-American. Those ideas were always false, but they were peddled as true because they served the political purposes of those, both in Europe and America, who oppose President Bush on Iraq.

The notion that France and Germany speak for all of Europe is especially absurd, akin to assuming that New York City and Washington, D.C., speak for all of America.

December 17, 2002

Ben Stein on Ruining American Enterprise

Steve Mushero pointed out an article from the 85th Anniversary issue of Forbes where Benjamin J. Stein offers a tongue-in-cheek set of suggestions to America's government called How to Ruin American Enterprise. This article articulates 12 relatively recent political and cultural developments that have had chilling effects on the productive capacity of American Business.

As a casual observer of what makes this country work and what stops it cold, I hereby offer a few suggestions on how we can ruin American competitiveness and innovation in the course of this century. I think the reader will agree with me that we are already far down the road on many of them....

Stein clearly believes that these developments combine to make our country less productive. But, he apparently also feels that many of the trends he articulates can be halted or reversed if sufficient political will is brought to bare on them.

December 7, 2002

Other Newspapers Begin to Focus NY Times Political Bias

Other newspapers are focusing on the obvious political bias of the management of The New York Times, and that focus isn't just about selling newspapers or fanning the flames of controversy. As The New York Post reports, the decision to reverse the spiking of two sports columns that differ with Times editorial policy on Augusta National has accentuated the controversy surrounding the situation.

The real problem at The Times is not the fact that they are relentlessly hectoring the members of Augusta National Golf Club, or that they are repressing dissenting views held by some of their own senior reporters and columnists. Rather, it's the fact that the editorial policy has an excessive impact on story selection and perspective.

An example from Saturday's New York Times is the story Some Tentative First Steps Toward Universal Health Care, a news article that discusses insurer proposals around the country that would further shift the burden of paying for health care to the states and the federal government. The reporter found many proposals that, taken together, would bring the country much closer to single-payer health care systems. Yet, all of these are proposals, and this is not reflected in the headline.

Beyond that, the article contains no alternative viewpoints. Couldn't the reporter have found someone in a public policy or insurance administrative position who could have pointed out holes in even one of these proposals? What about pointing out the issues associated with treatment of people who are in this country illegally, and the legions of Americans who want the federal government to stop these abuses?

The problem that The New York Times is experiencing is part and parcel of its editors' disingenuousness. The motto shouldn't be All the News That's Fit to Print-- it should be All the Left Wing Opinions that Are Fit To Print, or All the News That Fits Our Agenda.

November 30, 2002

New Jersey State Government Suffering from Overspending, Wall Street Dropoff

The New York Times reports that New Jersey is expected to have a state budget shortfall in excess of $4 billion that must be closed in the next budget proposed by Governor James McGreevey in February. According to the article, "...largely because of sharp spending increases in the late 1990's, New Jersey ran out of money earlier than New York. For the current budget, Governor McGreevey resorted to one-time fixes of the kind New York is now considering, like borrowing against future proceeds from the tobacco settlement...."

The article goes on to attribute much of the increase in state income over the past few years to taxes collected from people who work in the financial services industry:

"We had this bubble attributable almost entirely to what happened on Wall Street," said David J. Rosen, the lead budget analyst in the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. "These folks were making their money from capital gains, commissions, stock options, bonuses. They may still have their jobs, but their income could have dropped from $1 million to $150,000."

The big problem, as McGreevey admits in the article, is the unsustainable level of future spending commitments made by the State Government in the late 1990s. This is as much a pox on the house of the Republicans who led the government at the time, and the Democrats who refuse to cut state services back to a level that is in line with expected future tax receipts.

October 24, 2002

Forrester Debates an Empty Chair on New Jersey 101.5

The Courier-News reports that U.S. Senate Candidate Douglas Forrester arrived at a scheduled debate with Frank Lautenberg on New Jersey 101.5 FM radio. The only unusual issue about the debate was that Lautenberg refused to attend, forcing Forrester to debate an empty chair. According to the station's news director, "Lautenberg is the first statewide candidate in about 10 years to refuse to appear."

October 22, 2002

Political Candidates Run Ads Reminiscent of the Apple "Switch" Campaign

Camworld pointed out that The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Maryland Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Ehrlich is running ads reminiscent of the "Switch" ad campaign put on by Apple Computer. This is interesting because, as the article says, the candidates appear to be fighting over a few percentage points. Therefore, personal testimonials may shift the balance.

October 11, 2002

Norwegian Rope-a-Dope

The New York Times reported that Jimmy Carter was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. But, the Times article goes on to say:

In remarks to reporters after the announcement, {Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Gunnar} Berge said that Mr. Carter had been nominated for the peace prize "many, many times" but that a major reason that he was finally selected was that he represented a counterpoint to the militancy of President Bush.

In many ways, it's surprising that President Carter would accept the award after the chairman of the committee put his selection in that context. His acceptance of the award may be considered by some further evidence of the end of the time-honored saying that American politics ends at the water's edge.

We view the explicit politicization of President Carter's award as an insult to both President Bush and President Carter. The Nobel Committee says that this is an opportunity for them to make up for the fact that they failed to award President Carter the Peace Prize in 1978 for his work on the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Agreement. But, their chairman's crude attempt at insulting President Bush makes this an even more hollow gesture than it otherwise would be.

August 27, 2002

Verizon Lawyer Says Telecoms Siding with Consumer Rights Groups On Copyrights

Today, CNET published an interview with Sarah Deutsch, VP and Associate General Counsel of Verizon. In it, she suggests that many telecom companies are leaning toward consumer rights groups' positions on proposed changes in Copyright Law and away from the positions taken by the Entertainment Industry. This is interesting because it has not been clear where companies like Verizon stood on some of these issues, up to now.

If Deutsch is correct in her assesment of other telecom companies' positions on this issue, than the currently proposed legislation to strengthen Copyright holder's legal rights will be opposed by many more paid lobbyists than many consumer rights groups had expected.

August 22, 2002

Liberty International Airport?

The Star-Ledger reports that Governors Pataki and McGreevey yesterday announced their intention to change the name of Newark International Airport to "Liberty International Airport at Newark". Governor Pataki said:

Governor McGreevey and I both believe that it's appropriate that we change the name of Newark Airport to Liberty International Airport to pay tribute to the heroes we lost on Sept. 11, and recognize that the metropolitan region has been the gateway to liberty and the gateway to America for millions for centuries.


  • Did anyone have any idea that this plan was even being discussed before the announcement?
  • How does the name "Liberty International Airport" specifically evoke memories of the victims of September 11?

The main reason we might object to the name "Liberty International Airport" is the ambiguity of it. But, the announcement came as such a surprise that it's probably too early to take a definitive position on the issue.

Fair-Use Advoates Searching for Vulnerable Legislators in November Election

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over on Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds summarizes the comments webloggers made about Lawrence Lessig's idea to target two pro-RIAA Congresspeople for defeat in November. If you follow the links and read the big bloggers thoughts, then read the comments on the Instapundit story, you have to conclude that this idea is doomed."

"Honestly, the Copyright issues still don't resonate with non-technical people. This is obvious when you compare the wishful thinking of people like Dave Winer on this issue to the multi-front effort that unseated Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. No offense intended to Dave Winer, but, corporate attempts to eviscerate Fair Use don't provoke the broad-based public reaction that bigotry and anti-Americanism does."