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Falling Raines

In case you haven’t heard this…Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd are out at the New York Times.

Apparently, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is listening to the feedback he’s getting, not only from his own people, but also from mainstream America, and not liking what he’s hearing about his paper. In recent weeks, I called for, and fully expected the head of Howell Raines.  What I did NOT expect, and perhaps should have, was that of Gerald Boyd, as well.

What you shouldn’t let yourself get sucked in by, is all this chatter about Jayson Blair being the cause of all these problems at the Times, and by extension, in the rest of the country’s press, as well. Blair seems to be buying into the idea it’s his fault. As word of the firings of the Raines and Boyd became Public, New York City’s Channel 2 interviewers asked Blair for comments. He responded with:

“I’m truly sorry for my actions and what they have done,” said Blair. “I feel like, you know, I was in a cycle of self-destruction, but I never intend, and I never intended to hurt anyone else. And the pain that I have caused my colleagues, I’m sorry. The pain for my family and friends and anybody else.”

As much as the news media in general, and the Times in particular, as well as Blair himself, have tried to portray all these events this as the Jayson Blair Soap opera, don’t you believe it. As I have said before, all this makes Blair a victim… a point apparently not lost on Blair… he almost selfishly attempts to take center stage for the whole affair… Being a victim, of course, is something that always seems to resonate with the left.  His victim- status- seeking not withstanding, however… these events can by no stretch of the wildest imagination be left at the feet of Jason Blair.  Blair was never the central issue, nor even the majority of the issue… Blair was merely the last straw, in a long string of leftist excesses that The Times and it’s companies have become infamous for.  As Sullivan said recently:

“Crusading stories were covered exhaustively in what became known as a Rainesian “flood-the-zone” trademark. Its newest columnists engaged in increasingly reckless left-wing screeds; its op-ed pages saw conservative voices purged; and dozens of staffers started to leave for other papers. Those who criticized the new direction were punished or pushed out.

(Full disclosure: after I started criticizing the paper’s slanted coverage of polls and the Enron scandal, my six-year contract with the Times magazine was ended at Raines’ behest.)

Errors mounted; and the corrections pages grew. Instead of the staid hierarchy of the past, Raines picked out loyalists for promotion and demoted others. Young new stars shot ahead, while long-standing reporters and editors steamed.

In one particularly bizarre period, Raines decided to make a cause out of shaming the Augusta National Golf Club to admit women. This somewhat minor story was pursued on the front pages with a passion that bordered on crankdom. And when two columnists dared to write pieces defending Augusta, they found their columns spiked by Raines. He was later forced to reinstate them. But fear and loathing of Raines grew in the newsroom; while his own favorites took more and more liberties with the truth.”

As I’ve suggested before, these were not liberties, at least in terms of what the boss wanted… they were simply following the directions set by the leftist Raines. Blair, truth be told, is merely a convenient escape from the truth of the matter… something to blame all of this on. Blair, who seemingly will take the spotlight any way he can get it, is willing to play the game served up for him by his liberal masters.

One wonders if the re-appointment of Joseph Lelyveld, who retired a few years ago to make way for Raines, will do anything to regain the image of the paper. Given the connection alluded to in my recent columns between the Times and the press in the rest of the country, these questions extend to the remainder of the press as well.

As Brent Bozell says:

“Now that Mr. Raines and Mr. Boyd have resigned, Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. has a crucial decision to make. He can either continue to use the Times to promote an arrogant, left-wing advocacy agenda or he can return to the news. “The New York Times’ return to respectability is dependent upon whether it presents the news in an accurate, evenhanded manner. ‘All the news that’s fit to print’ is meaningless if the reporting is skewed to promote a liberal agenda.

Mr. Sulzberger has an opportunity to start afresh with new editors, and we hope he takes full advantage of it.”

I’ll be watching, but, frankly, I’m not overly hopeful, here.  Raines was part of the problem, granted… as too was his crony, Boyd. I can see, even, an argument suggesting that Lelyveld is a solution to the problem.

However, unlike the defenders of the Times, (and for that matter, the Times itself) let’s be honest, here.  Sulzberger himself is the biggest problem, and that situation doesn’t look to change very soon. Sulzberger has always held the conviction that journalism is about helping people and building what they consider a better society.  If you think this isn’t the prevailing nonsense in the news world today, ask anyone coming out of journalism schools why THEY’RE doing what
they’re doing, and they’ll tell you ‘to make a difference’, not to “report the news”. Simply and fairly reporting the news, and perhaps offering an even-handed comment on it, is too dull an assignment, for those on this ‘great mission’.  Once again, the Times shows up as the largest example of this kind of bias inducement. This is not something that’s just cropped up since Raines took over the ummm… errr…… reins. (Yeah, I know… sorry)

To give you an idea how prevailing this bias is, try this one: Ever notice how it used to be ‘newsman’, and now it’s “journalist”?  The Times has been at the lead of that ill-advised rush away from “newsman’.  Why is this important? Time to refer to my trusty 1956 edition of Barnhart’s dictionary…. 

“Newsman” is listed as : “A man who gathers, reports, or edits news”; Journalist is listed as someone who keeps a journal, whereas a journal is listed as “The writings of what someone sees or thinks.” A subtle change, but enough of one to allow for partisanship without the overt appearance of it. Is it any wonder why the country moved to the left as we moved from “Newsman” to “Journalist”? All part of the ‘greater mission’.

This move by Sulzberger to reinstate Lelyveld, then, seems to me designed to maintain status quo particularly as regards this “mission” which is exactly what the Times, and for that matter, this nation’s news gathering orgs do NOT need.  After all, Raines originally replaced Lelyveld for one reason only; Raines was more of an adherent to that “mission” than Lelyveld. Oddly enough, Raines got himself and his paper into trouble for just that reason, though the left wil claim
otherwise, of course.  Lelyveld is a player here again, only because Sulzberger needs a fallback position in the fight toward the satisfaction of that “mission”.

On the bright side, though, this can be considered a positive event, given that it has called attention to a left leaning press syndrome the left has always denied is there. At least now, it’s going to be far harder for the left to longer deny its existence.  That said, nothing, I fear will make such a position impossible for the left. No lie is ever too far fetched for them to latch onto.

As for the Times itself, it is less of a liability to our country and our culture than it was, at the least. How MUCH less, remains to be seen. Personally, I won’t be holding my breath waiting for the changes that are really needed there.