The New York Times’ Arthur Brisbane has an interesting observation about his employer

Arthur Brisbane has written a rumination about his two years’ as the New York Times’ public editor.  It is an interesting piece, as notes the way in which (a) the New York Times has slimmed its one massive corporate holdings so that they consist only of core news corporations and (b) it has encouraged its employees to embrace social media.  Most interesting to conservatives, of course, is that Brisbane admits that Progressivism is the name of the game at the Times:

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.

From this, Brisbane concludes that the New York Times will cease to be a regional newspaper and became the paper of record for an ideological mindset.  I think he’s correct.

The other thing that struck me about Brisbane’s article — and this is a picayune observation on my part — is how awkward some of his writing is.  I don’t blame him.  I recognize that language is changing and that I, with my old-fashioned grammatical rules, occupy the rearguard, not the vanguard.  Nevertheless, this sentence grated:

Back then, I viewed The Times as a deeply resourced news organization that was challenged to recreate itself in an environment that was smashing old media and vaulting new forms to prominence.

“Deeply resourced news organization”?  That isn’t elegant.  And if you’re going to use that phrase, clarity dictates that it should be written “deeply-resourced.”  Either way — yuk.  The other thing I dislike about the sentence is Brisbane’s passive voice:  the Times “was challenged.”  Who challenged it?  Well, the second part of Brisbane’s sentence indicates that changes in the marketplace dictated changes in the Times’ business approach, but the passive voice also allows him to avoid addressing the fact that the Times abandoned the pretense of journalistic objectivity, something he only addresses at the end of the article, in the part I quoted above.  If you’re going to become a partisan paper, that’s also going to force you to change your business approach — not to mention see you losing vast sums of money so that you have to sell of peripheral holdings.

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  • Michael Adams

    You seem to have noticed that the “modern” and vanguard writing and speaking are much less clear and expressive. We in the Adams  household have seen it, too. There was a time when new words and turns of phrase were remarkable for their punch. Now, they seem notable for their mush. e.g. You mentioned passive voice. That has always been the marker for Government Speak. I have no doubt that M. Martel has pulled out goodly chunks of his hair over the same thing.  I am seeing a lot of similar stuff in Spanish, both news programming and the telenovelas, although I have yet to hear anything as abominable as “I was like,” and “I went” for “I thought” and “I said”. I’ll need to deal with that in my grandsons, in due course, although they did not get that from  my son. (ahem)
    Language is expressive precisely because it is conventional. WE all, by convention, understand what words mean.  When we abandon those meanings, or substitute new ones, we are not enhancing our clarity.

  • Mike Devx

    So i was reading your #1 michael adams, and I was like, Wow!  This guy writes good and clear.  It was, like, you know, so, um, refreshing, you know?  Like, I mean, so clear and well done, I was like, Wow!

  • Charles Martel

    Michael and Mike: Dudes!

  • jj

    Arthur Brisbane is not a good writer.  He is in fact a poor writer.  He does, however, seem to have twigged that the paper is no longer even pretending to be engage in what any of us grew up referring to as “reportage.”  That alone makes him smarter than, say, Dan Rather – though it also makes him no better a reporter.  Or person.  I would have averred that the Times has long since become the paper of record for an ideological mindset: that change happened years ago.  No new observation here, he’s just confessing to the actuality, but a bit behind the curve.  Say a decade and a half behind it, but better late than never, I suppose.  We’re at least granted the reassurance that there’s one person rattling around Times headquarters who can tell what’s going on, though he’s a bit after the fact.
    But – did we need him to point this out?  (Or, if you prefer, admit to the plainly apparent?)  In short, we already knew that, Arthur, unaided by your observations.  Which begs the question: why does anyone bother to pay you?


    Food (strike) Fool Fight!        

    “In our newsroom we are always conscious that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of the country or world. I disagree with Mr. Brisbane’s sweeping conclusions,” Abramson told POLITICO Saturday night.
    “I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” she continued. “But I also often quote, including in talks with Mr. Brisbane, another executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, who wanted to be remembered for keeping ‘the paper straight.’ That’s essential.”
    Brisbane declined to comment on the column, his last as he concludes a two-year tenure as the paper’s in-house critic. “I would rather let the column speak for itself,” he told POLITICO.

  • Caped Crusader

    Just read NYPD shot all 9 bystanders at Empire State Building shootout; perp fired only at his subject, never at police.
    Marshall Dillon call the mayor’s office!
    How will NYT report this? Would get Barney Fife fired.

  • Charles Martel

    Cosmopolitan. My blue-collar inferiority complex quakes at the word. The thing all provincials like me aspire to be. 
    Wait a minute. Although I am a drooling, illiterate conservative, I seem to remember Stalin’s Pravda routinely using the expression “rootless cosmopolitan” to describe enemies of the state.
    Does Brisbane know that his master would not have been impressed with his glowing self-description?

  • David Foster

    What the NYT really is, is a fashion accessory. It identifies members of a certain clique.

  • Mike Devx

    Years ago I stopped reading the Times because of its obvious bias.  Therefore I can’t really comment on the state of that newspaper (or should I say rag) as it stands today.

    Everything I read here and elsewhere reassures me, though, that the Times has not returned to objectivity in the intervening years, and it has in fact become far worse.

    I am confident that I am not wasting my valuable time reading The Times, just in case they abandon their naked partisanship and become more objective.

    I also don’t waste my valuable time opening the front door in the morning to reassure myself that, yes, the sun is still rising in the East.

  • Libby

    It’s nice to see that someone at the NYT has (again) noticed the slant, but so what? This seems to happen every few years, and then they go right back to what they’ve been doing. Same goes for those rare moments of media introspection that always happen long after whatever partisan narrative they were amplifying has taken hold as the “truth”. I think these rare admissions serve only to make them feel better about themselves.


    What the NYT really is, is a fashion accessory.

    Or a really bad haircut – think “mullet”. 😉    

  • Danny Lemieux

    David Foster nailed it.