The New York Post Takes One

Arguably the least pleasant of our job requirements is wading through the sensationalist drivel and empty rhetoric that passes for journalism in the New York Post. Usually we just blow it off — our readers don’t need much of a reminder of just how offensive to anyone who values honest journalism that Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing tabloid can be. But this morning’s lead editorial included a gratuitous shot at the New York Times that so perfectly distilled the Post’s lazy, malicious brand of journalism that we thought we would drag it out of its hole and into broad daylight.

Here’s the gratuitous shot in question:

The Times, of course, thrives on trashing America.

Whoever at the Post who wrote this editorial knows the Times, of course, doesn’t thrive on trashing America. One might argue that the Times gives too much coverage to stories that incite anger at America — the Abu Ghraib scandal, for example. We don’t think so ourselves, but that’s certainly a legitimate argument for an opinion column.

Instead of making that argument, however, the Post opted to reduce the Times — the newspaper that today printed a piece about a Democratic mayoral debate headlined “Taking Aim at the [Republican] Incumbent, but Not Without Some Exaggerations and Half-Truths” — to a bug-eyed lefty propaganda sheet hell bent on destroying America. In a throwaway line, no less.

That would be the same Times, by the way, that also today printed a story supplied to it by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal advocacy group, and another story based on an interview with a veteran Army intelligence officer arranged for the Times and Fox News by conservative congressman Curt Weldon. Unlikely sources indeed for an institution purportedly intent on “trashing America.”

Now, let’s turn the situation around and try to imagine the Post cultivating a liberal legal advocacy group in the course of gathering the day’s news and printing a story that advances its cause. Better yet, try to imagine a leftist congressman who, say, goes to the Post and Air America when he wants to plant an interview. Seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?

Of course, the Post won’t care that we’re pointing this out. Unlike the Times, which responded to critics by appointing a public editor, the Post doesn’t have much patience for the self-examination required to produce good journalism. For Murdoch and his News Corp. compatriots, the newspaper is little more than a tool to further a political agenda. (An agenda, it should be noted, that is generally conservative, but not exclusively so — witness the Post’s recent embrace of Hillary Clinton and attendant trashing of her possible opponent, Jeanine Pirro.)

Far be it from us to coddle any news outlet — no one was more critical of the Times’ political coverage last year than Campaign Desk, our predecessor. But we do recognize that the Times is run (and staffed) by people who largely believe that a healthy and diligent fourth estate is essential to a functioning democracy. Whereas the Post is run by people who have no compunction about sacrificing fairness and accuracy if doing so affords the opportunity to score cheap political points.

If either can be said to be “trashing America,” it sure as hell ain’t the Times.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.