To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Thursday, December 1, 2016

‘Gray Lady Down:’ Why The New York Times Got Election 2016 So Staggeringly Wrong --- And Why Its ‘Epic Fail’ Matters To America

From Gray Lady DownWhat The Decline And Fall Of The New York Times Means For America. (Encounter Books, 2010.) 

p. 252: The real problem is, for lack of a better term, the armaments of political correctness--- the subtle and not-so subtle anti-Americanism,  anti bourgeois hauteur, hypersensitivity toward “victimized minority groups, double standards, historical shallowness,  intellectual dishonesty, guilt, moral righteousness and cultural relativism---that saturates its newsroom and its news pages. Journalists are supposed to have an adversarial to the institutions and issues they cover. But when that adversarial attitude becomes reflexive and blanket oppositionalism, at odds with the middle register of American society and its values, there’s a problem.  

pp 256-258: If the damage to the Times’ journalistic reputation and financial footing affected only the Sulzberger clan, it would not be a matter of broad public concern. But 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. Even if the Times were not suffering from self-in icted wounds, the proliferation of news sources—cable, the Web, talk radio, Twitter—may have meant that it could no longer be the “principle point of contact with reality” for our educated classes, as Dwight Macdonald once described it. And conservatives now would hardly say, as William F. Buckley once did, that going without the Times would be “like going without arms and legs.” (In late 2004, the idea of “going “Timesless” was endorsed by Jay Nordlinger in Buckley’s National Review.)
Yet even in its fallen state, this newspaper is important, and any loosening of “contact with reality,” particularly at this critical moment in our country’s history, has signi cant implications. And so its decline is something that anyone with a gene for public affairs should care about. Even those who are now going Times- less as a matter of protest and conviction admit that the paper affects “all of America’s media, whether individual readers know it or not,” as Nordlinger put it. Everyone who supplies the news, “whether in print or over the air, does read the Times. And is profoundly influenced by it. The paper is in the bloodstream of this nation’s media.”
That being so, the Times will continue to wield enormous over what the average American reads, hears and sees, even if the network newscasts no longer the front page of the paper in its entirety on a nightly basis. The Times still sets the news agenda. 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—an honest broker of hard news and detached analysis, where the editorial pages are not spread like invisible ink between the lines of its news reports and cultural reviews. As our political system grows more polarized, and political parties play harder toward their base, it is even more important that we have news organizations whose honest reporting can form a DMZ between opposing forces trapped in their own information cocoons. Some liberals may feel a need to rally around and declare, le Times, c’est nous, but this protective impulse is not only intellectually dishonest, it hands a rallying cry to the right-wing forces they castigate.
Although he himself writes for an unapologetically ideological page, the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger was right when he wrote awhile back, “We really could use some neutral ground, a space one could enter without having to suspect that ‘what we know’ about X or Y is being manipulated.” While the emergent blogging culture is dynamic, it mostly serves as a check on mainstream news, not a substitute for it. There’s energy and loud argument, but hard information and neutral reporting are not this medium’s strong suit. An inherent fragmentation and multiplicity, not to mention problems with factual accuracy, make it difficult for the blogosphere to provide the common ground that helps cement a shared sense of civic mission, especially on a national level, or the critical institutional counterweight to the power of corporations, government, vested political interests and self-involved politicians.
The Times will not be so easily replaced, which makes its decline—and perhaps even its fall—more worrisome. But if the era we are passing through still demands the Times, it demands a much better version of the Times than is being produced by the current regime.
The new Times headquarters, since 2008, is a far cry from the now somewhat seedy Victorian digs of the past. The 52-story tower is made of steel and glass, with a scrim of horizontal ceramic rods encasing it. Designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Renzo Piano, it shimmers and hovers, achieving Piano’s goals of “lightness, transparency and immateriality.” But if it embodies a certain promise, it also symbolizes what has been left behind in Times Square. As the Times veteran David Dunlap wrote in a nostalgic tribute before the move, the old building echoed with “the staccato rapping of manual typewriters” and “the insistent chatter of news-agency teleprinters,” with bells and loudspeakers, and the cry of “Copy!” and the printing presses roaring in the basement, setting the whole 15-story building atremble. This was the sound of news being manufactured during the American Century.
Dunlap noted that he and his colleagues were wrestling with the implications of a greater shift than the geographic one: the transition into an unknown future. “Certainly The Times has reinvented itself before,” he noted, yet there was nevertheless “some uncertainty as to whether the Times traditions can survive a move from the home in which they were shaped.” The new building was therefore less a “factory for news” than a laboratory. “We don’t know yet whether the transition will liberate us or leave us unmoored,” Dunlap fretted.
And for all of us, whether we read the Times or boycott it, something large rides on how this question is ultimately answered.

A thoughtful vividly supported expose.
---Juan Williams, FOX News

McGowan shows us that things at the Times aren’t as bad as we thought. They’re worse!
---Mickey Kaus, Newsweek

Read Willliam McGowan’s book to better understand how and why the ‘Gray Lady’ has fallen on such hard times. 
---Clifford May, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

A tough-minded but judicious critique of how the Times has declined under the Baby Boom leadership of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. --- Miami Herald