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All the News that's Print to Fit By: Bob Kohn
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 23, 2003


My wife hates it when I tell her “I told you so,” but she didn’t mind it last night when I told her that, according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday, less than half of the American public believes the New York Times is a reliable source of news.          

The Rasmussen survey of 1,000 adults found that 73 percent of Americans found their local newspapers to be reliable; 72 percent found Fox News reliable; 66 percent said the same of CNN; and 59 percent found the Wall Street Journal reliable. Just 46 percent of Americans found that information reported in the New York Times is reliable.

“The data reflects more than a generalized distrust of media reporting,” said Rasmussen. “The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News Channel, and local newspapers all were seen as significantly more reliable than the Times.

The poll was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on July 14 and 15, 2003, and had a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

These results should be no surprise to anyone who has followed the steady decline in the quality and credibility of the Times' news pages. It’s important to note that the survey was about the reliability of the news gathering and reporting of the respective news organizations, not about their editorial positions.

While critics have long complained about the left-leaning “slander” that appears in the editorial and op-ed pages of the Times, it was thought that little attention has been paid to the bias on the news pages. Conservatives had taken it for granted; the general public, it was believed, didn’t notice or didn’t care. The survey appears to betray the public’s appreciation for fair and balanced coverage of the news. They don’t trust news coverage that is directly tailored to influence public opinion. This is the lesson the Times must take from the survey if they have any hope of stemming further blows to their credibility.

The Jayson Blair scandal is the least of the Times' worries. The antics of a lone reporter who stole news copy from his peers and made up a few interviews pales in comparison to the systematic liberal slant that pervades the news pages of the Times.  It’s like the difference between a skin rash and skin cancer. Blair was the rash; it’s the cancer that people have a problem with. And it won’t go away.

Next week, Bill Keller will become the Times' new executive editor. He was appointed in the wake of the disastrous Howell Raines to restore a sense of stability to the newsroom. No doubt he will be a kinder, gentler manager, but on the day of his announcement, he stood before his news staff and declared that, in his view, charges that the Times slants its news coverage were “unfounded.”

After Raines’s resignation, the publisher of the Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., was asked how the change would affect the front page reporting at the paper. “That’s strategy," he replied. “Things that are strategic don’t change with people.”

With no one at the top willing to even acknowledge the paper’s essential failing, future surveys are not likely to bode well for the Times. Its reputation as a reliable source of news will continue its tailspin. And the Times may not be around for anyone to say, “I told you so.”



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