NY Times ME Admits Paper's Van Jones Coverage 'A Beat Behind'

In an online Q&A, New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson admitted the paper's coverage of the Van Jones controversy was "a beat behind" and put the blame on Labor Day, not pro-Obama bias. It's not the first Democratic scandal the paper has arrived late to.

Abramson participated in an online Q&A on Monday where she offered a surprising mea culpa on the paper's non-coverage of the controversy surrounding Obama environmental adviser and 9-11 Truther Van Jones.

The Times reprinted several emails from readers to Abramson wondering why the paper had not covered the Van Jones controversy until after he had resigned (a point Times Watch made on Sunday, BiasAlert version).

Abramson noted the paper's politics blog "mentioned the Van Jones controversy" on Saturday but admitted:

The Times was, in fact, a beat behind on this story.

Why? One reason was that our Washington bureau was somewhat short-staffed during the height of the pre-Labor Day vacation period. This is not an excuse. Another is that despite being a so-called "czar," Mr. Jones was not a high-ranking official. Nevertheless, we should have been paying closer attention.

But Abramson doesn't explain how the Times managed to avoid the burgeoning controversy until it was over, just as it did with earlier controversies involving other prominent Democrats. Earlier this year the Times ignored controversy over anti-Israel rants by Obama intelligence choice Chas Freeman.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Times ignored credible allegations of an affair against Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. In both cases the Times came to the story only when it was over, after the candidate had either withdrawn from consideration (Freeman) or admitted wrongdoing (Edwards).

- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site.