Emily Bazelon, NYT Magazine writer and a fellow at Yale Law School, July 9:
Emily Bazelon, fair ‘n balanced NYT news contributor, October 1:
Unfortunately for the Times, Bazelon is sufficiently well known in legal and journalist circles that some righties recalled her stated opposition to Kavanaugh when the Times story about the 1985 bar fight dropped last night. The paper was caught and it knew it. It’s perfectly fine for the entirety of non-Fox media to be adamantly opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, up to and including publishing inch-thin smears about gang rape, but to admit it?
Why, that might shake the public’s faith in their evenhandedness.
And so, per a NYT flack who spoke to Mediaite:
Emily Bazelon is a writer for The New York Times Magazine who occasionally writes op-eds for the opinion section. She is not a news reporter. Her role in this story was to help colleagues in the newsroom gather public documents in New Haven, where Emily is based. In retrospect, editors should have used a newsroom reporter for that assignment. To be clear, the story is straightforward, fact-based and we fully stand behind it.
There’s nothing to apologize for, writes righty Philip Klein at the Examiner. This is what we’ve always wanted the press to do. Stop pretending you don’t have ideological biases and advertise them instead! We know the Times is against Kavanaugh and will do anything it can within ethical limits to sink him in the name of protecting the sacred right to kill one’s child in the womb. By tapping Bazelon for the assignment, they came clean.
I disagree, although there’s much else to like in Klein’s piece, especially his point about Twitter being a factory where you get to see the narrative sausage being made by liberal media pros in real time. Even now, many years later, mention “Journolist” to a right-wing activist and their eyes will light up about left-wing reporters conspiring on secret listservs to shape the spin on the day’s stories that’s most flattering to the Democratic cause. You don’t need to worry about secret listservs, though, says Klein. They do this out in the open on Twitter every day, sharing links, amplifying each other’s talking points, reinforcing their priors about who’s Good and who’s Bad. Right-wingers do it too, it should go without saying, but to see the sausage in that case you need to go to an overtly right-wing site. To see the left-wing equivalent, just read the mainstream papers. Klein:
Having reported in the pre-Twitter era, I’m familiar with how things used to work. Members of the media would spout off about objectivity when speaking publicly, yet they’d regularly speak among themselves and develop certain narratives that more often than not reinforced the liberal agenda — in down times before campaign rallies, or press conferences, or stakeouts, or at the bars. I went to Columbia Journalism School and and remember quite vividly how the next generation of journalists was distraught on election night 2000 when Florida was taken off the board for Al Gore.
Now, thanks to Twitter, none of this is hidden. We see all the snark and narrative building happen in real time, and can see how closely the tweets of reporters parallel Democratic talking points for the day. Democrats have lately decided to focus on Kavanaugh’s history of drinking in high school and college, and voila, we suddenly get an avalanche of stories that both A) Misrepresent Kavanaugh’s testimony to claim he denied drinking to excess and then B) Write stories debunking that straw man in an effort to make him seem less credible, thus calling into question his categorical denials of sexual assault.
“I’d much rather live in a world in which the biases are out in the open,” writes Klein, “than in one in which journalists have biases but sanctimoniously pretend they do not.” Me too. But to say that Bazelon’s bias is “out in the open” is too easy. It’s out in the open to Klein and I because we marinate in this stuff all day; we use Twitter frequently for our jobs, we follow dozens of media people to stay on top of the news, we’ve encountered pieces by Bazelon before in daily news reading. The average Times reader will likely have no idea who she is or what her views are on Kavanaugh, though. Even her original July 9 tweet opposing him, which has circulated widely in conservative media today, has fewer than 1,000 retweets as I write this. Her bias is out in the open if you know where to look and care to spend time searching for it. How many Times readers would? How many read conservative media sites that will do that sort of work for them? How many notice bylines on news stories at all?
Jeryl Bier asks a fair question:
How can the @nytimes possible stand behind this article? Can they possibly be certain that Emily Bazelon would have submitted exculpatory documents that might have turned up? This article is tainted and they know it, but have not even footnoted it for the conflict of interest. pic.twitter.com/FjdxTotp2W
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) October 2, 2018
Here’s Bazelon last night:
No report of an arrest — but she’ll speculate that there could have been one, encouraging you to assume the worst. That’s not the sound of someone who’d hold back exculpatory information, is it?
I forget who, but some Twitter pal noted earlier that the best argument against scolding the Times for using Bazelon on the story isn’t that her bias was “out in the open” via her tweets in July, it was out in the open via the fact that she writes for the Times. Times readers wouldn’t feel obliged to research her view on Kavanaugh not because it wouldn’t occur to them that she might have one but because they’d naturally assume that she was opposed. That is, they read the Times in part because of its liberal perspective. In that sense it’s odd that her participation in the story is something the paper would regret, even mildly. I suppose they regard it as a tribute that must be paid occasionally to the nominal ethic of impartiality in journalism. They’ll editorialize ad nauseam against Kavanaugh on the op-ed page, they’ll hype stories about him throwing ice at someone in a bar 30 years ago, but if they use a declared opponent of his to produce the latter, well, then they must admit error. Meh.
Here’s McConnell having some fun with the Times story today.