Altered States At The Times - March 20, 2003

Times Watch for 03/20/03

Altered States At The Times

Left-wing media critic and Nation columnist Eric Altermans book What Liberal Media? gets a favorable reviewagain!in todays New York Times. Thursdays review in the papers Arts section came just four days after a positive notice from contributor Ted Widmer for the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Todays review, Sending Liberal Media Truism to the Fact-Checker, is by Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. That part about Berkeley is the first hint the fix might be in to give the left-wing Alterman a favorable review.

Another clue: Schell has written pieces on China for the Nation. In other words, a book by a Nation columnist (Alterman) was reviewed by a Nation contributor (Schell). Its perhaps no surprise they agree the media have a right-wing tilt. Alterman also quoted Schell approvingly in What Liberal Media? for likening pundit shows to a virus implanted on the American medias hard drive. (Schells laudatory review doesnt bring that up.)

Admittedly, neither Widmer nor Schell is a Times staffer. But in the past, when the paper has dealt with books criticizing liberal bias in the media by former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg (Bias) and commentator Ann Coulter (Slander), the Times has contented itself with one review a piece, both from Janet Maslin of the Times. Goldberg earned a halfway-favorable review, while Coulters book came back negative.

Another influential media book, 2001s Coloring The News by journalist William McGowan, which made many direct criticisms of the liberal bias of the New York Times, wasnt reviewed by the paper at all. Why not? Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice quoted Times Book Review editor Charles McGrath: "Is this newspaperthe best place to discuss a book that is so critical of this newspaper?"

Yet Altermans book, which mocks Times reporter Frank Bruni as something of a joke to his colleagues and accuses the Times editorial page of new heights of rhetorical dudgeon toward [Clinton] during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, earned two positive reviews from the paper in a four-day span.

Freedom and the American Flag Dont Mix The headline on todays story by Jim Dwyer on a ban on troops carrying the American flag into battle: Troops Told To Carry Freedom, Not the Flag.

Silent Times? Hardly The Times may be getting a little jumpy about criticism for its opposition to war. Thursdays lead editorial, The War Begins, warned: People who have supported Mr. Bush all along may feel tempted to try to silence those who voice dissent. It will be necessary to remind them that we are in this fight to bring freedom of speech to Iraq, not to smother it back home. Seems a wee bit paranoid for the countrys most influential newspaper and most influential anti-war voice to be warning of future squelching of dissent.