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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 (news.google.com) 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 CNN.com 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.

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CTDATA Venutures (CTDATA) develops Internet and Intranet applications for corporations and non profit organizations. Our services include:

  • Consulting services for Movable Type and TypePad-based publishing systems (visit our Weblog Improvement website for more information),
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