106 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down for the Count
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...
Published on January 17, 2011 by T. Berner
6 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Distortion of past and present
How telling that the first blurb for "Gray Lady Down" is from a Fox News employee (NPR fired him). This book distorts history in the cleverest of ways: it includes certain truths (the Times is in a financial tailspin, and if it doesn't figure things out pretty soon is going the way of the typewriter; the Times is much more gay-friendly [or less homophobic]; more...
Published on July 15, 2011 by LokiLain
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106 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down for the Count,
This review is from: Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America (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. The Times got hold of the letter and rewrote it to make him sound bitter and disillusioned.
It was this last story, a ghoulish and disgraceful attempt to steal a dead man's honor that made me resolve never to buy another copy of The Times or, given the option, to patronize any of its advertisers. I'm not alone. The reviewer of Mr. McGowan's book in The Weekly Standard asked why it mattered any more, that The New York Times was, in essence, a dead man walking.
But Mr. McGowan did not write this book for people like me or the reviewer of The Weekly Standard. He wrote it for people who haven't yet made a break with The Times and might help the paper to find itself again. I hope they read it. Mr. McGowan will show such people just how much they have been mislead and how much needs to be done to turn the paper around. He covers a series of issues and shows how the bias of The Times distorts the facts. He does it all with the sensitivity of a scorned lover. Those of us who feel more betrayed than scorned will have a more negative reaction to these stories than Mr. McGowan has, but his love of what The Times used to be strengthens his message.
Still, there are some points of the author's indictment, which I find too negative.
On race, for instance, he decries the double standard which Times' editors admit they use in hiring minorities, but as he shows, nepotism rules the top job at The Times: the paper will hire the best publisher it can find, as long as his name is Sulzberger. Under the circumstances, I find it rather endearing of the institution that it will apply the same double standards to those at the bottom of the food chain as it does to those at the top.
More seriously though, the real reason for the double standard is the sort of racism only leftists are capable of. They don't care about crimes committed by blacks because most of it is committed against other blacks. To mention black on white when they have ignored black on black crime would be truly racist, so they ignore that too. What the outside world sees as a racial bias in favor of African-Americans has ulterior motives. Blacks on The Times have a legitimate beef about how they are treated.
Also, Mr. McGowan spends too much time talking about The Times' editorial page. The editorial page on any paper should be a free fire zone and the left wingers who criticize Fox News for its non-news political commentators are just as wrong as the right wingers who decry The Times' columnists. In fact, we conservatives should consider ourselves lucky that The Times has such an undisciplined stable of columnists. In forty years of talking politics with readers of the New York Times, I have never heard anyone quote Frank Rich or Bob Herbert or Gail Collins or any of the other columnists. The Left hates Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly because people listen to them. Why should the Right complain about columnists no one reads?
The only exceptions to this are Tom Friedman and the conservative columnists because they seem to be the only ones who try to convince the reader, instead of beating him into submission. The rest are a hopeless bunch. Frank Rich gets his only publicity by saying stupid things which outrage rightwing writers for other publications; he is Peck's Bad Boy and if he were ignored as he should be, he would disappear without a trace. Maureen Dowd is never quoted for the substance of what she has to say but only for the peculiarly immature way she says it. As for Paul Krugman, he reminds one of the crazy man you used to run across on the subway of pre-Giuliani New York: after you read his column you feel the need to wipe the spittle off your face. Imagine the damage The Times could do if they had columnists anyone ever read.
Finally, there is too much emphasis on Pinch Sulzberger as the root of all evil. This attitude is common with both the disaffected insiders and the alienated outsiders. But even if Pinch were the Village Idiot, he presides over an institution of well educated and intelligent people. There is no indication that he is a dictator. He is either too weak to stop the rot at the paper or he is willing to go with the flow, but either way, there is more to it than a rogue publisher. In fact, Mr. Sulzberger hired Bill Keller and Sam Tanenhaus, two recent cases mentioned by Mr. McGowan of editors being hired who initially brought cheer to the critics of The Times only to disappoint them later. At least Pinch tried. There is a dynamic at the paper which will brook no dissent and will co-opt any independent thinker. This is a dysfunctional dynamic better left to sociologists, but Pinch Sulzberger is clearly not solely to blame.
In fact, the old Times was not such great shakes either. Mr. McGowan clearly documents how The New York Times Book Review was corrupted in 1979, the height of what the author sees as the golden age under Abe Rosenthal. It was Rosenthal who turned his back on the Outer Boroughs of New York City, telling a journalism class that "Our readers are more interested in what is going on in Beirut than they are in The Bronx and we give them what they want."
And the greatest crime the paper committed was its role in making the Vietnam War inevitable. Influenced by a Communist agent and professional agitators, their coverage pressured JFK to break with Vietnam's president, Ngo Dinh Diem. As a human being, JFK lacked a moral compass and like all such people, was therefore overly dependent on what others had to say about him. Unfortunately, President Kennedy cancelled the White House subscription to the New York Herald Tribune because the paper dissed him on the editorial page. If he hadn't done that, he might have read Marguerite Higgins' more accurate reporting debunking The Times' reports. Instead, he murdered Diem, the first time in American history that we deposed a loyal ally, throwing Vietnam into chaos and sending shock waves throughout the developing world. Even before JFK himself was murdered three weeks later, Cambodia broke its relations with us and declared nonaligned status, specifically citing our involvement in the coup. 58,000 Americans and countless others died for the sins of The New York Times. That makes all of its other journalistic crimes mere misdemeanors by comparison.
Any newspaper that champions the rights of both homosexuals and the Muslim extremists who want to murder them can have only one coherent goal: that of being the voice of the anti-establishment. The Times has always been the voice of the establishment and is willing to relinquish that role, so we are in a transitional period when the voice of the establishment is repositioning itself as a sort of daily edition of The Nation for rich people or The Village Voice for the lumpen bourgeoisie. I doubt that most writers for The Times will miss being the voice of the establishment. Oh, it's nice to be the voice of authority, but that brings with it certain responsibilities. It requires one to take a stand, to defend difficult decisions and be prepared to live with them, and to accept responsibility for one's actions and non-actions. The Times doesn't want to do any of that. It's far easier to attack people who do.
So every reporting period, The Times loses more readers who want to read a paper that behaves like the establishment's paper should. But there is no reason to believe the readership will continue to drop and it is very likely that The Times' new target market will learn how to read and will come to love "The New New York Times" for its video game reviews and its alternate life styles travel articles. For the rest of us, we now have cultural pages in The Wall Street Journal which are better than The Times ever had even at the height of its powers. And those who love New York can now read the Journal's metro pages which in a few short months have become better than those in The Times with a 160 year old tradition.
You would almost want to cheer The Times on, if it weren't for its role in turning liberalism into the last refuge for crooks, kooks and fools. Because the only things you hurt when you distort the truth (other than your own credibility) are the causes you espouse and the people you support.
POSTSCRIPT (3/6/11): MATT DRUDGE IS REPORTING THAT NY TIMES EDITOR BILL KELLER RECENTLY CALLED FOXNEWS VIEWERS AS "AMONG THE MOST CYNICAL PEOPLE ON PLANET EARTH." THAT'S A CURIOUS ADJECTIVE FOR THE EDITOR OF A PAPER WHOSE READERS ARE THE MOST GULLIBLE PEOPLE ON PLANET EARTH. AFTER ALL, CYNICISM (A BETTER WORD IS THE NEAR SYNONYM "SKEPTICISM")CAN BE A GOOD THING. IT IS THE FOUNDATION OF HONEST CRITICISM AND THE FORCE THAT KEEPS SOCIETY FROM DRIVING OFF A CLIFF. A JOURNALIST IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT HIS SOURCES CYNICALLY SO THAT HE DOESN'T MISLEAD HIS READERS AND ACT THE FOOL FOR CHARLATANS. KELLER'S USE OF THE WORD "CYNICAL" AS THE ULTIMATE EPITHET SPEAKS VOLUMES FOR WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE NEW YORK TIMES.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pick for any library strong in journalism and pop culture,
This review is from: Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America (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.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baby-boomers take note...,
This review is from: Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America (Hardcover)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.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The New York Times is Taken to the Woodshed,
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. According to McGowan, young Sulzberger is an extreme liberal who thinks, on the one hand, that government is the only solution to the current American social dysfunctionality, and on the other hand, vehemently opposes any efforts by the U.S. Government to be an activist on foreign policy and national security issues.
McGowan makes a pretty convincing case that Sulzberger and his editors have allowed a liberal bias to creep into the paper's news columns. He quotes frequently from the Times ombudsmen (give young Sulzberger credit for creating that important position) detailing the liberalism of both the Times editorial writers and the reporters. For example, McGowan notes the comments of the Times' Public Editor Clark Hoyt, who wrote in April, 2008:
"The Times, like most newspapers, long ago ventured far from the safe shores of keeping opinions only on the opinion pages. The news pages are laced with columns, news analysis, criticism, reporters notebooks, memos, journals and appraisals - all forms that depart from the straightforward presentation of facts and carry the risk of blurring the line between news and opinion - a line that is critical to the long-term credibility of any news organization."
Beyond its overall liberal bent, McGowan devotes full chapters to the Times bias in favor of homosexuals, illegal immigrants, minorities, and its flaky coverage of cultural issues. This reader thought that McGowan goes off the deep end on the chapters on gays and illegal immigrants, tending towards the aforementioned rants.
McGowan's criticism of the Times coverage of cultural issues is more viable. He claims (and backs up with examples) that the Times reviews of books, movies, the arts and other social issues has a clear liberal bias. Radicals, whether they are in the arts or in politics, are portrayed in a positive light; conservatives, on the other hand, are denigrated - when they are covered at all.
The author also scores points in his chapters on the U.S. defense establishment, including the newspaper's strident opposition to the incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan and the overall war against terror. In particular, the Times publication of details of secret wire tapping of international phone calls and the efforts to track financial transactions among terrorists clearly put the best interests of the national security in jeopardy.
In this regard, the newspaper was clearly reflecting the attitude of its liberal publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. Indeed, in a face-to-face meeting with President George W. Bush, Sulzberger and Times Editor Bill Keller rejected Bush's plea to not publish details on the anti-terrorist programs (This reader was disappointed that McGowan did not report the details of that meeting - the actual confrontation must have been fascinating).
Despite its flaws (rants) this is an important book that should be widely read. Even McGowan says that the Times is an important part of our public discourse.
"..the paper has always played a central role in our country's civic life and the public debates that shape our democracy and forge consensus," writes McGowan. "...Whether it appears on paper or on a digital screen, it will continue to be the polestar for American journalism. In this time of increasing social and cultural fragmentation, our civic culture needs a common narrative and a national forum that is free of cant and agnostic toward fact - and honest broker of hard news and detached analysis, where the editorial pages are not spread like invisible ink b between the lines of its news report and cultural reviews."
Note: the author is a retired journalist who spent 40 years as a reporter and manager of news organizations. During that time, he had occasional dealings with the reporters, editors and management at the New York Times.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gray Lady Down,
5.0 out of 5 stars A Morally Bankrupt Rag,
McGowan describes the biased reporting this rag publishes on a whole range of issues including race, immigration, the culture wars, Homosexuals (called "Gays) in this volume, the War on Terror and War generally. I think those who read this review know which side the Times is on on all these issues.
The one shortcoming of this book is its failure to discuss the Times's bigoted anti-Israel reporting, and this is a carryover from its failure to report what was going on in Germany in the years leading up to World War II and information it had about the Holocaust during World War II. A great companion volume to this one would be "Buried by the Times" by Laurel Leff which shows how the founder of the Times-Sulzberger dynasty actively ignored the indignities Jews were subjected to in Germany before the War by either not reporting them or, on the rare occasions the Paper did, did so on the inside pages or below the fold on Page one.
This is a contemptible newspaper and McGowan (and Leff) detail how contemptible it has become.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rot Starts at the Stop,
This is a great book by William McGowan on the New York Times and the fashion by which that once great paper has been destroyed by bias and a pernicious leftist worldview.
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars damning but not surprising,
The next time RINO's like McCain bleat "we must raise the level of discourse in this country" (which really means "I want someone to force Michael Savage to shut the hell up") hand them a copy of this book. A------s like Frank Rich, who spew print versions of extended middle fingers, deserve to be responded to in kind by those who value tradition.
The only disappointment here is McGowan's dream of a 'neutral' NYT which I would characterize as a complete pipe dream. I prefer to help hasten its demise: Pinchy doesn't care about you or me, but if your local rag is not owned by him or a fellow traveler like Anne Cox Chambers, then write to it, and then also call your local radio show and say you are boycotting the paper's advertisers until they remove Pinchy's drivel permanently.
I hope McGowan takes on National Politburo Radio next; at least Pinchy doesn't think he is entitled to take my money first before insulting me.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Tragedy,
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.
In some tragedies, such as Oedipus Rex and The Children of Húrin, outside forces set the stage for an individual's downfall. In others, the individual works toward his own destruction. The Grey Lady's Master hears the Sirens singing of Society Reinvented and, thus besotted, steers her toward their shores. One by one, she scrapes the rocks of falsehood and delusion, and as her finances show, she is close to foundering.
It is better that she do so than that she lead us all to the same fate. But her course is our loss as well, unless she turn from it.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not devastating enough,
McGowan should have raised hell. There's nothing worth saving at the Times. It has lied to us for too many years.
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Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America by William McGowan (Hardcover - November 16, 2010)