For Whom the Times Polls
by Bruce Feirstein
August 6, 2008, 12:13 PM
Back in the days when I was writing political advertising—in the pre-Internet, pre–War Room era—the single most coveted piece of information we tried to ascertain was the polling research done by our opponents.
Not the answers so much, but the questions. Because we saw the questions were sort of a Rorschach test: They gave us a view into what the opposition was thinking, what they were worried about, and how they might frame their campaigns.
Last week, I clicked on a link from Drudge to a New York Times story about Bill Clinton’s current standing in Harlem. That brought up a pop-up window at the Times site, asking if I wanted to take a survey concerning readers’ attitudes toward the paper.
More as a lark than anything else, I agreed to take the survey; I assumed that it would probe the effects of the most recent price hike on subscribers to the national edition. (I’m now paying almost $700 a year to get the Times delivered in LA. With everything free on the web, I don’t know how they’re going to maintain these subscriptions, or sell new ones.)
In any case, as I began to take the survey, the questions became curiouser and curiouser, with specific inquiries about Judith Miller and W.M.D.’s, the MoveOn.Org “General Betray Us” ad, the Times’ coverage of Israel, and questions about the impact of Jayson Blair, along with the paper’s decision to publish information about the domestic wiretapping program against the wishes of the Bush administration.
(This wiretapping question, incidentally, is fatally flawed from a research point of view: the survey doesn’t make it clear whether you are being asked if you approve or disapprove of the paper for holding the wiretapping story for six months, or for publishing it at all.)
What follows here are screenshots of the actual survey.
This isn’t a joke. I’m not making this up.
In an informal office poll of VF editors, some of us see this survey as an indication of a new, “touchy feely” Times; others used the words “paranoid and frightened.” And still others wondered whether this was commissioned by the publisher, or the editorial side of the paper. As one editor queried: “How would you feel if the publisher was asking these kinds of questions about the editorial content? If I were a reporter, I’d be furious.”
Either way, I think you’ll agree it’s an awfully interesting look into somebody’s mindset at The New York Times these days.
Click here to see the poll for yourself.
It's worth visiting the above link to check out some of the 50 odd comments posted on Vanity Fair's site. Several are bang on, several ranting, several hysterical. I especially liked thes ones:
At first I faulted VF for misspelling Jayson Blair's name ("Jason"). Then I saw that The Times itself had misspelled his name in their poll. Posted 8/6/2008 by arhooley
This is simple. The paper is imploding because of two social forces: - Sanctimonium: that is a false sense of piety on the part of editorial staff; and, - Sycophantia: that seemingly unstoppable group think, where everyone tells the boss how awesome he is.
Posted 8/6/2008 by Tomd2b Tom Desrosier http://www.dare2believe.comPosted 8/6/2008 by Tomd2b
Look at all the Drudges coming here and spewing their regurgitated hatred, CAPITALIZED NO LESS. One even claims the crossword is biased. Please people, you have F'd up the country for the past 8 years and I suppose that's the NY Times' fault also? The drop in advertising affects all newspapers and has nothing to do with your perceived biases. Sure the Times has a lefty editorial page, but their in-depth and analysis-based reporting is second to none.Posted 8/6/2008 by smokedgouda
The NY Times suffers from "terminal arrogance." I learned this as a stringer for the paper in the Howell Raines days. After all, what does it say if you refuse to run the name of the article's author unless the author is a staffer? Better yet, what does it say when the non-staffer outshines the staffer by getting the scoop - as I did with the first interview of abortion doctor killer Paul Hill, but couldn't get ink because the staffer wasn't in on the interview? The most blatant act of arrogance was Times Select. Think about it - your influence comes from who reads your columns - and how widely that readership is. The NYT actually believed that they are so irreplaceable, so vital, that they could extort you to buy their columnists . . . or what, live in the intellectual darkness without their brilliance!? If you look closely, that began the fall of their influence. For 2 years they took their ideas out of the public discourse because they couldn't believe that anyone who wants to stay up with events could do so without them. Well, people looked for other sources, and today, the NYT is still paying the price by its continued loss of influence in our society. The second instance was when Executive Editor Bill Keller told an audience at Columbia about bloggers interacting "like a circle jerk." Ah, Bill, "circle jerk" is hardcore homo-erotic jargon for mass masturbation. I wrote Drudge, who pulled it off his site, and the Columbia campus newspaper, which pulled it off their site. When I tried to get a message to Bill, his secretary told me he would never say such a thing and hung up. Obviously, she doesn't know her boss very well. But what does it say that the Executive Editor of the NYT would even use such language in the first place? You get the drift, but if you don't here is a third, and final example: Remember the deranged black topless dancer from Durham, NC, who claimed to be sexually assaulted by 3 undergrads from Duke? Up until the day before the NC Atty. Gen. said the boys were innocent, the NYT spent the final 1/3 of the story about the situation in anticipation of the Atty. Gen's exoneration telling the world why, after all the obvious lying and psycho drama of the complainant, why the boys could still be guilty anyway. What type of mindset does it take to do that? What do you have to tell yourself, about yourself, that you can rationalize spending 15 column inches in the final wrap of the story why the boys could still be guilty - anyway? Sheer detached arrogance - it is the downfall of all, and the NYT is not immune. -30-Posted 8/6/2008 by KennethELamb
The Times and the rest of the MSM will continue to wither and eventually die unless they wake up to the fact that too many of us are sick to death of their agenda of telling us what to think and calling it news. REPORT THE FACTS and skip the agenda. We will form our own opinions. Thank heaven for the internet which gives us access to FACTS and not leave us at the mercy of the self appointed elite.Posted 8/6/2008 by conant
I want the FACTS... just the FACTS...Please..Posted 8/6/2008 by Justohio
IW: These last three comments about opinion and Times Select are fascinating. I have long held that the opinion of someone in a position of authority (e.g the President of Afghanistan, although he is in fact the Mayor of Kabul) is worth reading. But Freidman, Dowd, et al? Has anyone at the NYT heard of the Internet and blogging.
There is a strong argument to stick to news, news analysis, and NON-NYT opinion.
Egon Spengler said it first, "Print is dead." I have respected The Times as the accurate record of humanity since my birth. It was a childhood dream of mine to one day work there; asking the hard hitting questions that would one day win me the Pulitzer. Or at the very least bring doom to some politician or corporation. But, alas life had other things in store for me, such as cyberspace. I cancelled my subscription to the resurrection way back in the heady days of Genie & CompuServe. I was so busy chatting with people I would never know that I didn’t have time to read anything except Shakespeare. And boy was that an eye opener. Of course, now there is the INTERNET, that fantastic storehouse of the wisdom and tomfoolery of humankind. And let us not forget the “Blogosphere” which comedian Lewis Black has said, “Blogging is like masturbating in front of mirror and videotaping yourself; so that you may watch it later while masturbating.” The American Leftist Media Propaganda Machine is a phantom. The concept is a shadow puppet to keep the populace from digging their conclusions independently. Heck, why do ya think they call it Television Programming? The novel and magazine writing machines churn out their effluence while America watches SmackDown 2008. The old Socialist guard is gone. They have been replaced with the whiners and the victimization circus. A parade of headshots that spew non-stop from a billion channels and a billion pages worldwide. I laugh at the notion of a "leftist" media or a "rightist" media even. There is simply what is going to sell, period. The NYT needs to find the answer or face honestly its extinction. R.I.P. Good Luck – Mel www.melgoetia.comPosted 8/7/2008 by MelGoetia
NYT's has lost credibility with me because of the Israel/Palestinian coverage - it's totally biased against the Palestinians, and I think that is completely disgraceful for an otherwise decent paper.Posted 8/7/2008 by aubergine
The real reason for failure is not "liberalism" at all -- what an idiotic, simple-minded perspective. It's the internet, but that should go without saying. I still enjoy glitzy rags like Newsweek and Time, but the daily newspaper has little on the fast changing news available online. Hands down, it will make news print (at least in the manner we are accustomed to) obsolete.Posted 8/7/2008 by jimesmith
IW: My emphasis in bold above: Newspaper 1.0 is dead, newspaper's aren't. Hence the need for Newspaper 2.0. More bolding below.
Wow, we seem to be flush with wingnuttery. The NYT isn't liberal. They sold lies of the Bush administration just like CNN and ABC. The fact that they give a damn about this shows you that once where journalists were found we now see stenographers Anyone who thinks Fox is an actual factual news organization is an idiot. Plain and simplePosted 8/7/2008 by catfish
IW: oh yes indeed.
I subscribe to the Times in Florida because I formerly lived in the New York area and am still interested in local affairs. That said, the newspaper is a constant disappointment. The New York Times is, first and foremost, corporate. Their primary goal isn't informing the public, it's satisfying their stockholders and advertisers. Those two constituencies won't tolerate "bad news," such as the crimes of the Bush administration, the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, the obvious lies surrounding 9/11, and Cheney's war profiteering. They simply aren't covered at all. Investigative journalism, once the hallmark of every great newspaper, has become a dinosaur at the Times. When the paper defended its corrupt reporter, Judith Miller, after her outrageous conduct in Iraq and in re Plamegate, it was proof positive that the New York Times no longer gives us news that's fit to print...only news fit for its constituents.Posted 8/7/2008 by robertlockwoodmills
I was reading some of the comments on this article and had to laugh. All these people railing about liberal views. Are they kidding? We haven't had any liberal views in the mainstream media in over 6 years. If the New York Times wants to find out why people have quit reading their paper they should do a little factual research, it would be easy to find out at what point people stopped looking at it as 'the paper of record' and started seeing it as just another arm of the right wing Faux Noise propaganda organ of the neocons. Their reporting has become nothing more than white house talking points, they held information back because the white house told them to, they sit on information that counts... (where is an article on the front page about the forged letter that the white house commissioned to have written by the CIA about the yellow cake uranium?) And then to top off all the lies and disinformation they put out, they hired William "I have never been right about anything" Kristol for their opinion page. It wasn't the right wing mantra that they are 'liberal' that killed them, it was pandering to the right wing crazies that did it. The morons that repeat the 'NYT is a left wing rag' mantra aren't going to read it because they can't think on their own, (One actually mentioned FOX and fair and accurate reporting in the same sentence, proof positive of what I am saying)And anyone that has an ounce of common sense quit bothering with the fantasy news of the neocons long ago. And they are having a hard time understanding this?Posted 8/7/2008 by Maxiesid
I think of the NY Times as a mouth piece for government - selling us a war that was unwarranted, keeping silence about national security breaches (which should have concerned the Times itself: if you have no 4th amendment rights, you have no first amendment rights), cheerleading whatever 'cause' that the government is selling: the necessity for Tamiflu, Cipro, smallpox vaccinations - you name it, the Times hyped it. If they site a British article or journalist then you know the Times is info washing governmental "information" through foreign journalists. So one reads the Times for government storyline, and one finds the real story elsewhere.
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