Sunday, January 01, 2006

Trouble in Abundance for The New York Times

The old Gray Lady is floundering. Over recent years The New York Times has lost nearly all of its credibility as a source for accurate and unbiased reporting. And things just keep piling up. To wit:

The New York Times Company's stock fell 33.2 percent between the end of 2004 and October 31 of this year.

Twice in the past three years the Times has been forced to admit to running bogus stories. In 2003, reporter Jason Blair and executive editor Howell Raines both were fired after it came out that Blair had fabricated stories. And recently, longtime Times’ reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about her conversations with a confidential source in the Valerie Plame non-case, and then was harshly criticized by the Times itself for reporting during the run-up to the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - a story that was later discredited.

The newspaper also published a disgraceful distortion of a fallen soldier's last words last October. A Times reporter selectively edited a letter from the late Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr to his girlfriend to convey a false sense of "fatalism" in a Times’ piece marking the anti-war movement's "2,000 dead in Iraq" campaign. The Times further betrayed the public’s trust by ignoring President Bush's tribute to Starr a month later when the President defended the war in Iraq during a speech at the Naval Academy.

Mr. Bush read part of Corporal Starr’s letter, which was found on his laptop computer. “Here's what he wrote,” Mr. Bush said. “He said, '[I]f you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we're in Iraq; it's not to me. I'm here helping these people so they can live the way we live, not to have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. Others have died for my freedom; now this is my mark.'"

Sadly, tragically, incomprehensively, intolerably, the Times told a different story. Only rampant dishonesty and a gross political bias can account for such fraudulent reporting.

Today, the Justice Department said that it has opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security Agency program under which President Bush authorized eavesdropping on phone calls between people in the United States and in other countries without a court warrant, the existence of which was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Dec. 16.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters that Mr. Bush did not request the investigation, and added that, "The leaking of classified information is a serious issue." "The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America's [playbook] is, it has serious ramifications."

If the foregoing wasn't enough to condemn the Times to the journalism trashheap, publishing classified national security information ought to break the camel's back.

Clearly, the wheels have come off of the Times operation, and while the Gray Lady is far from the only major media outlet to suffer from major ethics failures, it is alone in accomplishing this astonishing level of journalistic impropriety.

Perhaps the top management of this once proud and reputable newspaper ought to consider a name change: The New York Crimes.

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