NY Times editors talk media bias

One of the New York Times’ top editors had some choice words for Fox News and Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch Monday night, saying Murdoch’s news organizations are to blame for the public’s overall sense of cynicism regarding the American news industry.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said Murdoch’s Fox News has made the American people cynical about the news, hurting the already financially unstable news industry.

“I think it has contributed to the sense that they’re all just out there with a political agenda, whereas Fox is just more overt about it,” Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, said at the latest installation of “The Kalb Report.” “And I think that’s unhealthy.”

Legendary journalist Marvin Kalb later questioned Keller about the New York Times’ perceived liberal bias, similar to the grilling Murdoch received on the program last year about bias in his news organizations.

“Many conservatives, as you well know, criticize the Times as being a liberal, left-wing newspaper, and that those views get into the news part of your newspaper. Why do you allow this to happen?” Kalb asked.

Keller defended the 160-year-old paper, chalking up the liberal-slant criticism to some people’s lack of understanding of the difference between context in stories and bias.

“We don’t allow this to happen,” Keller said of bias. “I don’t mind analysis in the news, in fact, I encourage it every day.”

Keller and Kalb also debated WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website that has released thousands of classified diplomatic cables. Kalb called the Times “an enabler” for turning WikiLeaks into a front-page story.

Keller shot back, saying the Internet provided enough of a vehicle for the leaks to spread, and the Times would have been forced to cover it either way.

“I think WikiLeaks and its leaders were entirely capable of publishing the material on their own… the information would have circulated through the blogosphere in a day,” Keller said.

Keller and New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet also discussed the ever-increasing pace of journalism in the Information Age, and the value of softer feature stories versus hard news stories. Kalb said the Times puts too much of a value on feature stories, but the difference seemed generational as Keller and Baquet touted the value of reporting national trends.

“I think if you sat down with the editors, which I have, who ran papers [30 to 40 years ago], they would tell you that the New York Times… might have fronted the fourth movement of a bill from a house subcommittee to another committee, but they missed until very late the dramatic shifts in the way women interacted in the workplace in the country,” Baquet said.

Keller said the Times has adapted to the changing media landscape, putting stories up quickly without sacrificing accuracy.

“I love wire services, but at the wire service the premium is on speed. I think people come to the New York Times for a kind of authority, because they trust us to get it right and to explain it in a way that makes sense to them,” Keller said.

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