Why people get mad at the media (part l2) The New York Times answers questions about its slow coverage of the Walter Reed scandal but stonewalls on its censorship of Project Censored
By Bruce B. Brugmann
Byron Calame, the public editor of the New York Times, spent an entire column in the Sunday New York Times (March ll) answering an important question:
"Why," Calame asked in his lead, "were readers of the New York Times left without a word of news coverage of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal for six days after it had been exposed by the Washington Post?
That was the question posed to me in the wake of the Post's Feb. l8 scoop by readers thirsty for readers thirsty for news of the poor care given those wounded in Iraq."
As attentive readers of the Bruce blog will recall, I raised an even more important question as to why the Times and its sister paper in Santa Rosa (the Press Democrat) have for 30 years refused to run the Project Censored story from the local Sonoma State University. I have also asked Calame, and Times and PD editors, why they won't run the Project Censored story, even though its stories before and during the Iraq War laid out much of the key neocon policy behind the war and the anti-war strategies in opposing it. Neither Calame nor any Times nor editor would answer me nor provide an explanation to Carl Jensen, the project's current founder, nor Peter Phillips, the current director, for their censorship of the Censored Project through the years.
This is highly significant in light of Calame's Sunday column. "Readers have every right to be angry about the Times's slowness in telling them about the compelling news in The Post's two-part series," he wrote.
((I won't raise the question here as to why neither the Post nor the Times, nor any of the beltway journalists, didn't get the stories months earlier at nearby Walter Reed and why they didn't respond earlier to the accelerating drumbeat of criticism of lousy treatment of returning soldiers from veterans, their families, and veteran's organizations.)
Calame did find the culprit: "Excessive pride, I believe, is the fundamental problem. The desire to be first with the news still permeates the newsroom at the Times and other newspapers in a way that makes editors and reporters feel defeated when they have to conclude that the information in another publication's exclusive article is so newsworthy that it has to be pursued." Good point: but what about newsworthy stories broken by other publications, picked up by Project Censored, stamped "Censored," and put out as a major package that the Times and other mainstream media then refused to print? Was "excessive pride" at work here for 30 years? Is that much of an excuse on stories as big as Iraq and Bush?
I pointed out in my earlier blog that the Censored stories were particularly timely during the war years.
For example, on Sept. l0, 2003, while the Times and the PD and affiliated papers on its news service, were running the stories of the disgraced Judith Miller that helped Bush make the case for the Iraq War and then seeking to justify it, the Guardian ran the Censored package with a headline that read, "The neocon plan for global domination--and nine other big stories the mainstream press refused to cover in 2002." I noted that our introduction to the timely censored package made the critical point: "If there's one influence that has shaped world-wide politics over the past year, it's the extent to which the Bush administration hs exploited the events of Sept. ll, 200l, too solidify its military and economic control of the world at the expense of democracy, true justice, and the environment. But President George Bush W. Bush hasn't simply been responding to world events. The agenda the administration has followed fits perfectly with a clearly defined plan that's been in place for a decade."
I noted that the neocon story, and the many other such stories that Project Censored put out during the war years and again this year, laying out the drumbeat to war and the dark side of the Bush administration, got no play in the Times nor the PD and very little play in the rest of the mainstream press and its "embedded" and "mission accomplished" journalism that marched us into war and is now keeping us there. Who was right, the Guardian and Project Censored stories or Judith Miller and the Times?
Calame wrote that "readers would benefit if the
Times could swallow a bit of its pride and make use of two readily available approaches to dealing with important news in the scoops of competing competitors." He said the Times could put the stories of competitors up on its web and they could be encouraged to use "solidly reported wire stories" of significant exclusives in other publications. What about the Censored stories?
Calame concluded, "The reality is that when significant news breaks--even in the form of an exclusive in a competing publication--the Times must be committed to getting on the story. Anything less seriously damages the paper's value to the readers."
Another good point: so repeating for emphasis: Why won't the Times and the PD run the Project Censored stories
that were so often on target when the Times wasn't? And why won't the Times and its public editor answer or even acknowledge the question and underlying issues of biased reporting, flawed news judgment, and too much lapdog access to the Bush administration? I'm sending this blog to them and asking once again.
I am waiting for the public editor and Times/PD editors to reply. Is this like waiting for Godot? Stay tuned. B3
Project censored blog:
Byron Calame's The public editor: