Sign here to become a member of the 14 Percent Club. Twenty bucks plus shipping and handling gets you the T-shirt. Credentials for membership derive from a recent study from the Pew Research Center disclosing, in the words of Katharine Seelye of the New York Times on May 9, that “45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing of what they read in their daily newspapers…. When specific newspapers were mentioned, The Times fared about average, with 21 per- cent of readers believing all or most of what they read in The Times and 14 percent believing almost nothing.”
Chalk up another victory for the left. We’ve been at it for thirty years at least, saying that most things in the Times are distortions of reality or outright lies, and here is a robust slice of the American people agreeing with us.
Of course, the fainthearts who believe that the left can never win anything will say that the credit should go to moles at the Times, boring from within, hollowing out the mighty edifice with year upon year of willful falsehoods until at last the whole ponderous structure is crumbling into dust, crushing all within. True to a point. Heroic moles, entombed in the rubble of your own making, Judith Miller and all the others, back through to the suzerain of sappers, A.M. Rosenthal, we salute you all!
As with any empire near collapse, frantic orders are issuing from the command bunker. Seelye divulges the program of proposed “reforms” devised by the editors: “Set up an error-tracking system to detect patterns and trends. Encourage the development of software to detect plagiarism when accusations arise. Increase coverage of middle America, rural areas and religion.”
Can there be any better evidence of the panic that has settled in? If this trend continues, they’ll be forcing Tom Friedman to install software, based on the works of Noam Chomsky, that freezes his hard drive every time he types an untrue sentence.
The Times‘s “reform” package veers between apologetic sniveling about improved coverage of the heartland (fatter slabs of patronizing nonsense about god-fearing kulaks in Iowa) and quavering barks of defiance at “the relentless public criticism of the paper…. Mr. Keller [the Times‘s executive editor] asked the committee to consider whether it was ‘any longer possible to stand silent and stoic under fire.'”
“‘We need to be more assertive about explaining ourselves–our decisions, our methods, our values, how we operate,’ the committee said, acknowledging that ‘there are those who love to hate The Times’ and suggesting a focus instead on people who do not have ‘fixed’ opinions about the paper.”
This is like reading a strategy memo from the dying embers of the Dukakis campaign. I’m glad to say I have no constructive recommendations to offer to the Times editors, except maybe one suggested by my Nation intern, Mark Hatch-Miller: “Stop bringing up Jayson Blair every time you screw up. Every time the paper talks about why people don’t trust them, they have to mention Blair, but we all would have forgotten him by now if they’d shut up about him. His story is only used to distract us from the real problems at the Times.”