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Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America Hardcover – November 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“A surprisingly sincere critique from the right of America’s leading newspaper. Here is athoughtful, vividly supported expose from a journalist who loves newspapers and the Times. As American journalism is roiled by technology and financial pressures McGowan succeeds in reminding us that arrogance and a limited world view are also to blame for the troubles of even our most celebrated newspapers.”

Juan Williams, author, NPR and FOX News Channel

"Like many New York Times readers, I got the queasy feeling that something fundamental had changed at the paper with Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr.'s ascendancy in the early 1990s. America's most important paper became somehow more unashamed of its political bias and more insulated. By skillfully reporting the telling anecdotes, disturbing incidents and outright scandals of the past two decades, William McGowan shows us that things at the Times aren't as bad as we'd thought. They're worse! If he had common sense, Pinch Sulzberger would read ths book and promptly resign. But if he had common sense he wouldn't be Pinch Sulzberger."

Mickey Kaus, Newsweek

“Those of us who spent years happily reading the New York Times (not to mention thosewho—like me—spent years happily working at the New York Times) need to read William McGowan’s book to better understand how and why the Gray Lady has fallen on such hard times. The goal is not schadenfreude. The goal is to help her recover from what ails her.”

Clifford D. May, President, Foundation for Defenseof Democracies; former Times reporter, editor, foreign and Washington correspondent

“McGowan’s Gray Lady Down has the great strength of showing how the Times's multicutural relativism on the home front and xenophilia abroad left it completely flat footed when it was called upon to report on the rise of Islamic extremism in America. The Times has developed a dangerous capacity to discover “moderation” in what should be seen as Islamist maximalism and cultural practices and values squarely at odds with American norms."

Fred Siegel, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Scholar in Residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn

About the Author

William McGowan is the author of Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Coloring The News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism (Encounter Books) for which he won a National Press Club Award in 2002. A former editor at the Washington Monthly, he has reported for Newsweek International and the BBC and has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Columbia Journalism Review and many other national publications. A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, he has been a frequent commentator on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, NPR, Court TV as well as other cable and broadcast networks. A former Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, he is currently a Media Fellow at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594034869
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594034862
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 135 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I used to be addicted to The New York Times. If I were out of town and had to spend the entire day tracking down a copy, I would consider it time well spent. But then I went to Afghanistan, where history was happening.

The Times' coverage of events I witnessed wasn't so much wrong as it was irrelevant. It wasn't until after I got back that three stories made me ask myself why anyone should read a newspaper that makes one more ignorant for having read it:
- At the Embassy, we would receive regular press releases of the discovery of the killing fields of hundreds of thousands of Kurds murdered by Saddam with the Weapons of Mass Destruction which The Times now says he never had. I ran a Nexis search in August of 2006 and found that The Times had run 1503 stories that mentioned Abu Ghraib and only 7 stories about Saddam's genocide. There is no way to defend such unbalanced coverage. All of those deaths should have raised a question about what happened to the WMD. And it would also moderate the anger of buffoons like Michael Moore, who seems to believe that pre-invasion Iraq was a peace-loving democracy.
- The Pentagon released a 600 page report translating documents from Saddam's secret police showing that he funded, trained and supplied most of the strongest terror networks around the world, including elements of Al Queda. The Times buried this in two paragraphs in the back of the paper. Since the Afghan government was a mere landlord to Al Queda, charging it rent to stay in the country, Saddam's contribution to world terrorism was far greater and the invasion more justified.
- A young Marine named Starr was killed in Iraq, leaving behind an eloquent letter to his girlfriend telling her that he had died for a worthy cause.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
GRAY LADY DOWN: WHAT THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE NEW YORK TIMES MEANS FOR AMERICA provides a sequel to COLORING THE NEWS, comes from an award-winning journalist, and considers who and what is responsible for American journalism's demise. Reporting and history blends with his critical analysis to expose the Times' obsessions with pop culture and counterculture attitudes: preoccupations that have set the Times against the actual values and ideals of the American mainstream. An intriguing account, this is a pick for any library strong in journalism and pop culture.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ted Marks on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The New York Times has become an American institution that serves a vital role in the day-to-day conduct of life in the United States - especially among the so-called elite of the American establishment. Alas, the newspaper has fallen on rough times, both editorially and economically, and William McGowan's book, GRAY LADY DOWN, is an important resource in understanding why the Times is struggling to remain a viable editorial and business publication.

Some parts of the book are very good; unfortunately, some parts are little more than a rant against the current publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and the people he has brought in to manage and edit the Times. Upon completing the book, some readers will wish that McGowan's editors had used a firmer hand in toning down the author's outrage over what has happened to the newspaper.

That said, McGowan has produced an excellent analysis of the newspaper's woes, and one hopes that the management (indeed the entire editorial staff) of the Times takes McGowan's observations seriously. If they do, they might be successful in turning the `Gray Lady" around. Indeed, the Times had better make the proper management moves, because for the first time in a nearly 50 years, the Times had serious competition from Rupert Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal.

According to McGowan, the principal reason for the downfall of the Times is its publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. McGowan writes that the (now not so) young Sulzberger took over as publisher and CEO of the Times with an attitude, stemming from his college years of the 1960's, when he was an active protester of the Vietnam War.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Al from Chicago on March 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The NYT was an iconic information source for the baby-boomer generation. Younger folks such as myself view the NYT as a partisan Leftist publication. This book chronicles the decline of the NYT and was enjoyable and easy to read. It answers the question: "What went wrong?" I believe the author remains balanced and fair throughout. Every conservative and Progressive should check it out -especially- those baby-boomer types that actually still believe that the NYT is an unbiased news source.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Grey Lady Down is a book that should be unnecessary about a tragedy that should not have happened. But it has happened, and too many people have averted their eyes.

The early chapters of this book are a modern history of The New York Times: how it cemented its place as the "Paper of Record" in the mid-twentieth century, and how family succession brought it to the hands of a man more concerned with using it as a tool for social change than for upholding its mission and trust. Not that it has always or ever been fully true to either, but at its best it came close and most of the time it could be relied upon to keep news and opinion distinct, if not separate.

All that changed when control passed from "Punch" Sulzberger to "Pinch" Sulzberger. The changes run deep, in the blood and sinews of the human organization, in the standards and practices upheld (or not), and in the character of the people chosen to fulfill the paper's mission.

The second part of the book chronicles the public face of these changes. It is a litany of self-destructive breach of journalistic standards, integrity, ethics, honesty, decency, and journalistic mission. These acts occurred under the bright light of public scrutiny; the Times embarrassed itself on its own stage, in its own words from its own script. It should not be necessary to repeat them for us, but we the public have short attention spans and often prefer to look elsewhere when an individual's acts are more comfortable forgotten.

But the Times is not an individual. It is an institution aspiring to the public trust. It is losing that trust due to the acts of individuals, acts that were the natural and probable results of policies and perceived mission. Those were set at the top.
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