Custom Search

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New York Times Not biased? You Decide.

Yesterday I posted two articles, one about the NYT among other papers
disputes with the Department of Defense and another on a story I found to be distorted for what I call, the headline factor.

I point out how they show a statement, then ask questions of former employees of the IRS's, and their answers to whatever questions this reporter David Cay Johnston asked them are reported. The answers from these employees that were printed only dealt with part of the original quote that was shown in the beginning of the article.

Seems Mr. Johnston disagrees and claims he reported fairly. I laugh because I rarely have seen any article in the NYT that has not shown bias, but you decide for yourself.

After reading my original post here, then read his response to me, then mine back to him.

His comments follow:

I think you did not read my story with the same care that went into reporting it. My response to you is part of a practice I adopted 40 years ago this month, when I wrote my first article that evoked criticism, to respond.

You suggest that I tricked the four former commissioners by not telling them the full story. Wrong.

Each former commissioner was read the precise language of the email, including the "holidays season, etc." language.

And I specifically noted Mr. Everson's remarks to me, pointing out that in his mind, as I reported high up, the elections were part of a continuum of dates.

I also shared some of his remarks with these four men when I interviewed them to make sure that had the full context. None has complained that my report lacked fidelity to their words or the spirit of their words.

Your post suggests that you imagine journalism as a game of gotcha, a mistaken notion that one can get from watching the actors who play reporter on many television news shows, but which is at a great distance from the careful fact gathering, cross checking and research of real reporters.

These former commissioners (two Democrats and two Republicans who we note in some cases served Presidents of the the opposite party) were highly critical of Mr. Everson for even thinking about elections as a reason to delay broad-based enforcement notices.

The holidays issue did not dampen their criticism.

My story also makes clear that it is longstanding IRS practice to not undertake significant enforcement actions right around Dec. 25 and the reasons for this.

Indeed, Mr. Rossotti, the first businessman to head the IRS, said he could not imagine that any IRS commissioner would even think about elections, as Mr. Everson said he often does.

Mr. Rossotti’s remarks show how profoundly indefensible the four commissioners felt that any consideration of elections, even local, was to running the IRS.

I also quoted a senior IRS executive, pointing out that he was a Democrat and had been a Clinton appointee and noting that he was in the room when the elections issue came up, showing its context and reporting his view that he did not think this was politicizing.

All of this shows how carefully rounded and complete my report was, contrary to your factually disprovable assertions.

In short there is no basis in fact for your posting that The Times was "conveniently forgetting to add the rest of the quote in the question about the holidays." Nor do the facts support your broader charge that I engaged in “distortion and smears” to create a story.

Opinions vary on what is news, but in my 12 years of covering how our tax laws are administered I have paid close attention to both the harsh treatment some IRS agents have administered to people for minor or even imagined infractions and also its ignoring by the IRS criminal activity until I reported on it. I have examined the quality of the agency's computers (ancient) effect on adm

My comments back to Mr. Johnston follow:

They original statement I refer to is here.

“We just spoke with commissioner on the enforcement issue in the gulf,” wrote Beth Tucker, the I.R.S. executive in charge of dealing with Hurricane Katrina victims, in an e-mail message to her team obtained by The New York Times. “He prefers that we do not resume any enforcement actions until after Dec. 31 due to the upcoming elections, holiday season, etc.”

Once again, you distort...yes, distort. In all the other quotes from the people you spoke to, find me one where the holidays etc has not been left out?

A quote from YOUR column.

"Former Commissioner Jerome Kurtz, who served under President Jimmy Carter, responded, “Never, never, never,” when asked if he would have considered delaying broad-based enforcement actions like sending notices because of any election, national or local. “Oh my God, that is unthinkable,” Mr. Kurtz said."(From the Times article)

Not once is the mention of holidays there as was in the original quotes about the back tax notices being delayed until after elections, holidays etc... If you did ask, which is still in question, in my mind, you decided NOT to add their response with that added component.

Also, as is usual in the case of almost every New York Times story, you state a fact, then you state as news, inuendo as shown here.

Donald C. Alexander, who was commissioner under Mr. Carter and Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, said he would never have even thought about delaying enforcement because of an election, but added that he thought Mr. Everson was otherwise doing an excellent job.(From Times Article)

Then again, you show yet another quote from Sheldon S Cohen, and there is NO mention of the holiday comment originally "reported on", the answer you chose, a conscious decision was this.

Sheldon S. Cohen, the Johnson administration tax commissioner, said it was wrong to delay any broad-based enforcement actions because of a pending election. Mr. Cohen said, however, that delay might be appropriate in a matter involving a specific politician.(From Times Article)

So, IF you had asked them the full quotes and question, even given the benefit of doubt, let us assume you did.... you CHOSE not to show answers that included the full context of the answers in conjunction of your original story. Only at the beginning of your piece was the actual quotes mentioned.

This is the reason your writing as well as quite a few at NYT are well known, far and wide of being a far left media outlet, which after reading your stories people need to independently find stories to actually get the real story, instead of the "parts" that get you headlines.

So, other than the original statement that mentions elections, holidays, etc... I stand by my assertion from reading YOUR OWN article, that nowhere else in that article is the fact that holidays is a factor, your implication in the piece is that it was done for elections period.

Perhaps also, since your so kind as to be explaining your bias to us, you would explain your papers refusal to issue a corrective statement for the Department of Defense as they have asked you to do here.

Oct. 27, 2006 —This week’s exchange with the New York Times isn’t the first time the Department of Defense has expressed concern about inaccuracies in a Times editorial. A September 7 editorial (“A Sudden Sense of Urgency”) asserted that, with the transfer of 14 high-value terrorist suspects to Cuba, “President Bush finally has some real terrorists in Guantánamo Bay.”

In fact, those held prior to the transfer included personal bodyguards of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda recruiters, trainers, and facilitators. Another individual held at Guantánamo was Mohamed al-Kahtani, believed to be the intended 20th hijacker on September 11th.

The Times declined to issue a correction, noting that “the phrase in question was meant to be somewhat lighthearted in tone and not literal.”

Is this the type of reporting that you call fair?

My question here would be, if you are reporting news, and are presented with facts from the DOD, to refuse to issue corrections because your article was supposed to be "lighthearted and not literal".... isn't the news, objective news, supposed to BE literal?

They do not mind publishing articles and spinning them, yet they do not like when their hand is called on it. Tough!!! They should try reporting a full, balanced story, or they shouldn't be reporting to begin with.

It is no wonder that The New York Times Co. reported that its third-quarter 2006 profit from continuing operations plunged 39.2% on costs related to its job cuts and a loss on its sale of its 50% stake in the Discovery Times Channel.

They will continue to plunge if they do not learn what the word "objectivity" means.

Other examples of the MSM bias: Townhall, PC Free Zone, Don Surber, Right Voices, NewsBusters, Blue Star Chronicles, Fmragtops Spews, 186 k per second, Hot Air, The Bullwinkle Blog, Op For.

Hot Air has an open thread Saturday.

[UPDATE] 10/30/06- Freedom Eden has a good post about what a disgrace NYT is. Sister Toldjah also shows that the media that does show objectivity does better than those that do not.

Anyone who has not read Michael's Commentary, really should. He ripped the NYT a new one.