Friday, 8 August 2008

Media Bistro on the NYT Reader Survey

Enough About the News, Let's Talk About Us — Why Don't You Like Us?
Wow, so the New York Times seems to be doing its own peculiar impression of Woody Allen at his most neurotic. A recent reader's survey from the Times wants to know what it is exactly about them that you don't like. Was it that whole Judy Miller thing? The General Betray Us ad? Jason Blair? Israel? The Style Section? (kidding! Let's not get crazy).

Bruce Feirstein over at Vanity Fair's Politics&Power blog discovered the survey after randomly clicking through on a Drudge link. The VF people think the survey either signifies a "touchy feely" Times or a "paranoid and frightened" one. Apparently no one suggested it was a sign (albeit a disturbing one) of a paper attempting to keep its head above water during the newspaper world's annus horribilis. Still, questions like "When you think of the New York Times what positive things come to mind?" reek of the worst kind of liberal cliche. It's unclear whose idea the survey was, but assuming it came from the publishing end VF is probably correct in assuming its tone would make editorial "furious." Furthermore, what purpose do questions over Palestinian coverage and whether or not the Times should have run the wire-tapping story earlier serve? Is it merely another case of "Punch" Sulzberger holding out a moose (as Pareene suggests) or are we transitioning into news by consensus? And anyway, isn't that what blogs are for?

IW: it's pretty easy to mock and disect this survey but what I can say, personally, is that the Judy Miller thing was, for me, as a reader of the IHT, an absolute body blow to my belief in the overall credibility of the NYTs and by extension the IHT. I'm not saying I don't still believe they are the gold standard, nor that I haven't always had more than an open ear to the views progressives like Noam C. on the role of big media in the world, and the NYT, but for me it's the best of a bad bunch.

As to the IHT, like it or not, their global (potential readership) care a lot about Israel's illegal occupation and ongoing settlement of much of Palestine and if the perception is that the NYT is pro-Israel - I wonder if that question has yet being put to the global readership: I doubt it - then that's a serious problem.

Personally I find their news coverage reasonably balanced but not sufficient editorial condemnation of Israel for its actions. And even in the news coverage every Israeli death seems to be reported in detail; of the large numbers of Palestinian deaths, not as much.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

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