The Whale in Times Square

It is the contention of William McGowan that the once august New York Times, our “newspaper of record” (for lack of an alternative), has become a politically correct sheet.  He blames the nepotistic reign of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who inherited the publishing mantle in 1991 upon the retirement of his legendary father, Arthur O. “Punch” Sulzberger.  Since then, McGowan argues, such time-honored journalistic standards as reportorial balance, political neutrality, and fairness have withered and died, while multicultural advocacy, lightweight lifestyle reporting, and left-wing cheerleading have flourished.

McGowan blames Sulzberger for tendencies characteristic of all of our metropolitan dailies and thus fails to grasp the nature of what’s wrong with American journalism.  He understands the political-correctness part; he wrote an excellent book on the subject about eight years ago.  What he doesn’t understand is that the Times is never more pro-establishment than when it is politically correct.  His charge of anti-institutional bias at the Times—a “reflexive oppositionalism”—rests on that paper’s belated opposition to the Iraq war and its skeptical attitude toward the “War on Terror” and the Af-Pak escalation.

McGowan’s Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism (2002) remains...

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