Arlen Williams
New York Times says the darnedest things, regarding ACORN, Van Jones, etc.
By Arlen Williams
September 29, 2009

What do you make of this? Yes, it is humorous, but, I don't think that was the main effect they were going for, over at Marxstream Media, Manhattan.

    Tuning In Too Late

    Published: September 26, 2009

    ON Sept. 12, an Associated Press article inside The Times reported that the Census Bureau had severed its ties to Acorn, [sic, ACORN] the community organizing group. Robert Groves, the census director, was quoted as saying that Acorn, one of thousands of unpaid organizations promoting the 2010 census, had become "a distraction."

    What the article didn't say — but what followers of Fox News and conservative commentators already knew — was that a video sting had caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes. The young woman in streetwalker's clothes and her companion were actually undercover conservative activists with a hidden camera.

    It was an intriguing story: employees of a controversial outfit, long criticized by Republicans as corrupt, appearing to engage in outrageous, if not illegal, behavior. An Acorn worker in Baltimore was shown telling the "prostitute" that she could describe herself to tax authorities as an "independent artist" and claim 15-year-old prostitutes, supposedly illegal immigrants, as dependents.

    But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes — closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser — suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.

    Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called When the Senate voted to cut off all federal funds to Acorn, there was not a word in the newspaper, although a report in the Caucus blog that day covered the action. When the New York City Council froze all its funding for Acorn and the Brooklyn district attorney opened a criminal investigation, there was still nothing.

    Readers noticed. James Jeff Crocket of New Britain, Conn., spoke for many when he said he was sure he knew why the paper was silent: "protecting the progressive movement."

The piece goes on, tip-toeing an imaginary line between confession and denial, apology and excuse. This, particularly, brings a lasting smile:

    Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."

    Despite what the critics think, Abramson said the problem was not liberal bias.

Liberal bias? Naaaa. The solution to the not really bias? Let us see that again: "...assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies." The "controversies" of "opinion media?" Is that what you call journalism, from those pesky Americans who happen to believe government should abide by the Constitution, Mr. Hoyt? And, do you really purport, your comrades are so Old World that they fail to heed any particular kinds of new, er... "opinion media?"

Here is how it closes. (Still grinning and shaking my head, as fingers move on the keyboard.)

    But Rosenstiel said The Times has a particular problem with conservatives, especially after its article last year suggesting that John McCain had an extramarital affair. And Republicans earlier this year charged that the paper killed a story about Acorn that would have been a "game changer" in the presidential election — a claim I found to be false.

    "If you know you are a target, it requires extra vigilance," Rosenstiel said. "Even the suspicion of a bias is a problem all by itself."

    The public editor can be reached by e-mail:

Do you really think he is reachable? Look up! Take my hand, Clark! What are you trying to say, Mr. Hoyt? Hint: what were you just trying not to say?

Here is one email, to the public editor:

    Come out from that closet,
    Before the door closes,
    And brings more pain,
    To your reporters' toeses.

    Escape "the polemic world...
    which your noses,
    Snort up all their lines,
    from the Daily Kozes.

Okay, maybe not straight from Daily Koz, all the time; call it poetic license. And, if you read this as you begin your day, Clark, I don't mean to distract you too much, during the morning conference call with Pravda John Podesta.

© Arlen Williams


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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