Via Mediaite, I thought the public editor was the one person at the Times deputized to acknowledge the plain fact that yes, the paper is indeed overwhelmingly, glaringly liberal. Two of Sullivan’s predecessors went even further than that and actually accused the Times of letting its “coverage” of certain issues turn into out-and-out cheerleading for left-wing causes. Remember Daniel Okrent’s shocking column in 2004 admitting that the sky is blue?
But for those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it’s disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading. So far this year, front-page headlines have told me that ”For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy” (March 19); that the family of ”Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home” (Jan. 12) is a new archetype; and that ”Gay Couples Seek Unions in God’s Eyes” (Jan. 30). I’ve learned where gay couples go to celebrate their marriages; I’ve met gay couples picking out bridal dresses; I’ve been introduced to couples who have been together for decades and have now sanctified their vows in Canada, couples who have successfully integrated the world of competitive ballroom dancing, couples whose lives are the platonic model of suburban stability.
Every one of these articles was perfectly legitimate. Cumulatively, though, they would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause. You wouldn’t even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you’d have the makings of a life insurance commercial.
This implicit advocacy is underscored by what hasn’t appeared. Apart from one excursion into the legal ramifications of custody battles (”Split Gay Couples Face Custody Hurdles,” by Adam Liptak and Pam Belluck, March 24), potentially nettlesome effects of gay marriage have been virtually absent from The Times since the issue exploded last winter.
Just last year, Arthur Brisbane confirmed that the sky is blue and that it also contains clouds:
I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.
When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
Per one survey, 93 percent of Washington correspondents vote Democratic. Those numbers aren’t unusual historically either: For all the concern-trolling about how far right the GOP has moved in recent year, even a more centrist Republican like Nixon trailed Humphrey and McGovern by 60-70 points in surveys of journalists. To take Sullivan seriously here, you have to believe either (a) that Okrent and Brisbane and everyone to the right of, say, the Center for American Progress is totally blinkered in their perceptions about the Times’s bias or (b) that we’re all correct but that that bias is somehow institutional and doesn’t travel with the Times’s writers once they leave the newsroom. If the staff’s liberalism is so entrenched that it’s creeping through into the paper’s writing despite professional norms that demand a “neutral” perspective, what are the odds that they’re suddenly deciding to pull the lever for the Romney/Ryan entitlement-reform agenda once they’re in the voting booth?