Floating the New York Times’ boat: The New York Times is our most famous newspaper. But what does the Times care about?
In an attempt to answer this question, let’s consider the newspaper’s coverage of Herman Cain, a Republican White House contender. More specifically, let’s compare its coverage of Cain’s tax plan with its coverage of the sexual harassment and assault charges made against the candidate.
Let’s start with the harassment/assault charges! From November 1 to the present, the Times has run seven front-page reports on this topic. Here are the dates and the headlines as recorded on Nexis, although most of these front-page reports ran under triple headlines in the hard-copy Times:
Front-page reports about Cain sex charges:Is that too much coverage? Too little? Just right? In part, we'd have to say it's all relative! With that in mind, we offer a contrast: As best we can tell, the Times has run only one front-page report about the Cain tax plan:
November 10: Cain Lawyer Warns Any Accusers: 'Think Twice', 1217 words
November 9: Cain Again Denies Accusations As Second Woman Goes Public, 1346 words
November 8: Woman Accuses Cain of Groping; He Denies Charge, 1130 words
November 5: Cain Accuser Tells of Pattern, Lawyer Attests, 1020 words
November 3: Cain Says Perry Is Orchestrating Smear Campaign, 1396 words
November 2: Cain Accuser Got a Year's Salary in Severance Pay, 1224 words
November 1: Cain Confronts Claim From '90s of Harassment, 1347 words
Front-page reports about Cain tax plan:Is that an appropriate balance? We’re reporting, you can decide. For ourselves, we’d be inclined to explain these data as follows: The New York Times luvs a good sex chase—but the paper finds policy matters boring. Indeed, Gail Collins is the paper’s fomer editorial page editor. She tells readers twice each week that such talk is hopelessly dull.
October 13: With Just Three 9s, Cain Refigured Math for Taxes, 976 words
In our view, this fatuous outlook helps explain why the public is so clueless about all sorts of budget matters. It helps explain why it's so easy to disinform voters about various budget topics, from tax rates through Social Security.
How little non-sex reporting does this newspaper do? Just consider two key parts of the Cain tax plan.
As everyone knows, the Cain tax plan is 9-9-9. Or is it? On one of this fatuous newspaper’s blogs, Sarah Wheaton reported the following more than three weeks ago:
WHEATON (10/21/11): Herman Cain, who has said simplicity is one of the greatest virtues of his “9-9-9” tax plan, added an asterisk on Friday.Interesting! Is the plan 9-9-9? Or is it really 9-0-9? And if the plan is 9-0-9, does that mean Cain would exempt a certain level of income for everyone, as most “flat tax” proposals have done? For example, would every family of four be exempt from paying income tax on some substantial amount of income? If not, wouldn’t his plan give people an incentive to keep their income below the poverty line?
After acknowledging that his plan to impose taxes of 9 percent on corporations, personal income and purchases would result in a tax increase for lower earners, Mr. Cain proposed modifications to the plan that would mitigate that impact.
The plan would be 9-0-9 for those at or below the poverty level, meaning they would pay no income tax, Mr. Cain said at an appearance in front of Detroit's dilapidated Michigan Central Station.
As best we can tell, the New York Times has never discussed any of this in its hard-copy reporting. On Saturday, Charles Blow referred to the 9-0-9 plan in his New York Times op-ed column.
As best we can tell, if you read the hard-copy Times every day, you have no idea what he meant. But so it goes inside the palace which produces our dumbest newspaper.
Second question: Would Cain’s plan eliminate the earned income tax credit? We’ve seen that said in various places, but is it true? If so, this would constitute a serious hardship for the working poor.
Does Cain’s plan eliminate the EITC? As best we can tell from the Nexis archives, this point has never been discussed in the hard-copy New York Times. But then, how many Times readers have any idea what that program is?
The harassment/assault charges against Herman Cain constitute actual news. But the same Herman Cain has also produced that famous tax plan. That said, the Times seems to loves one story much more. But then, as everyone must know, this is a pattern these folk have displayed for lo, these many years.
The Times is typed by the top one percent. It displays a highly fatuous culture, as palace elites often do.
They luvv to talk about sex and clothes. They enjoy citing Mitt Romney’s pet dog. They love to chase sex charges around, no doubt because they're soooo concerned. But policy shit which affects every person?
Darlings! Not so much!
The iconic expression of these values: Darlings! Exemptions? The EITC? This cosmically fatuous paper finds such talk to be boring. In part, this is why our political culture is so blindingly stupid.
The iconic expression of these values was offered long ago, allegedly from the mouth of Dowd. Gay Jervey quoted Joe Klein in a profile in Brill’s:
JERVEY (6/99): "Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties...I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?' And she said, 'You mean I should write about welfare reform?’”Those harassment/assault accusations are news. But so is that monstrously boring tax plan. The Times erupted with joy over one, can’t get it up for the other.
To answer your query, it's too much. Way too much.ReplyDelete
1. Herman Cain will never get elected, so his ideas have no real life.
2. Herman Cain has nothing worthwhile to contribute, so he should be ignored.
Sex sells, as any ad man could tell you. Did the thought occur to you that the Times runs this garbage because that is what the public wants to read?ReplyDelete
I have a news search feature on my home page, that automatically lists the most popular stories with actual readers. I'd say about 99% of them have nothing to do with policy. Most of them have to do with sports figures and events, and when politics does come up, it's something about a sex scandal, or a gaffe, or, sometimes, some polling event. Policy? Unless it's about a war or something really unusual, it just doesn't come up. The Times is giving people what they want.
I think you're right Anonymous. However, 50 years ago, the National Enquirer gave people what they wanted; the New York Times gave people what they needed to know.ReplyDelete
What's particularly unfortunate is that there's no replacement for what the Times used to be. Maybe the Times can maintain its number of readers by turning itself into a second-rate National Enquirer, but where do we go to get real news coverage?
Sex sells, of course, but maybe institutions that cater to the lowest common denominator should be honest about what they're doing instead of calling themselves smart?ReplyDelete
Of course, Fox News calls itself fair and balanced, and it's neither. if a media org needs an advertising campaign to convince people of what it is, then it's probably not.