Accuracy in Media

Libya may be in the news, but for the editors of The New York Times, the Congressional hearings on Wednesday weren’t newsworthy enough to merit front-page coverage, and that didn’t sit well with the Times’ new public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

Sullivan, who replaced Arthur Brisbane in September, noted in her new column that both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post found enough merit with the hearings to place stories on them on their front pages—just not the Times:

But The New York Times was not among them. The six stories on The Times’s front page included one on affirmative action at universities, one on Lance Armstrong’s drug allegations, two related to the presidential election, one on taped phone calls at JPMorgan Chase, and one on a Tennessee woman who died of meningitis. The major artwork on Page A1 was from Syria, and the only mention of the hearing on Libya came in a one-paragraph summary at the bottom, leading readers to a well-displayed story on Page A3.

Not only did the Times choose Lance Armstrong over Libya, they barely even acknowledged the hearings.

Executive editor Jill Abramson told Sullivan that Congressional hearings are not about fact-finding and are often deeply politicized, and described the Times’s recent coverage of Libya as “excellent and very muscular.”

Abramson also told Sullivan that she and managing editor Dean Baquet wanted to get to the bottom of what happened in Libya and why, and yet they chose to largely ignore the hearings.

Baquet told Sullivan that he didn’t think “there was anything significantly new in it,” referring to the hearings, and that “there were six better stories.”

Those six stories were more important than congressional hearings on a terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans? Is he kidding?

Sullivan, to her credit, didn’t buy Baquet’s argument and said that the Libya hearing story had significant news value, and deserved to be on the front page, regardless of the politics.

It’s that line of thinking by Abramson and Baquet that only lends more credence, if any more is needed, to the charge that the Times is a liberally biased paper.

If the attack and subsequent cover-up had occurred under a Republican president, and had a Democratically controlled Congress held hearings like the Republicans are doing now, there is no doubt that the Times would have found it newsworthy enough for the front page.

Maybe next time Baquet can check with the Post to see what they’re doing so they don’t get left behind on a story.

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