was in 2004 that the newspaper's first "public editor" wrote a column that ran under the headline "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" Then, in his first sentence, Daniel Okrent bluntly stated: "Of course it is."
Discussions of this piece continue to this day. The key to that earlier piece, noted Keller, was its admission that the Times' outlook is "steeped in the mores of a big, rambunctious city," which means that it tends to be "skeptical of dogma, secular, cosmopolitan."
This socially liberal worldview does have its weaknesses when it comes to covering news outside zip codes close to Manhattan.
"Okrent rightly scolded us for sometimes seeming to look down our urban noses at the churchgoing, the gun-owning and the unlettered," noted Keller. "Respect is a prerequisite for understanding. But he did not mean that we subscribe to any political doctrine or are foot soldiers in any cause. (Anyone who thinks we go easy on liberals should ask Eliot Spitzer or David Paterson or Charles Rangel or ... )."
As for the future, the newspaper's new executive editor has carefully offered her own opinion on the worldview of the newsroom she now leads. In an interview with current Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane, Jill Abramson joined Keller in stressing that it's crucial to remain unbiased -- when covering politics.
"I sometimes try not only to remind myself but my colleagues that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of America," she said. "I am pretty scrupulous about when we apply our investigative firepower to politicians, that we not do it in a way that favors one way of thinking or one party over the other. I think the mandate is to keep the paper straight."
(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)
(c) 2011 United Feature Syndicate
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL UCLICK FOR UFS