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Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Howell Raines is the editor of the New York Times. I don't know that much about his politics, but from what I know, I would agree with him on any number of things. I do know, however, that he is a lousy journalist who, as long as he is around, will give some substance to conservatives' shrill charges of liberal media bias. (So that you know, I do know a little bit about journalism. Just about every member of my immediate family is or has been a journalist, and I was the black sheep of the family who did something else with my life. And even I publish a blog, which I suppose is a form of journalism.)

Under Raines' watch, the New York Times has repeatedly engaged in unethical journalism designed to promote a political agenda:

1. The Times unjustifiably savaged the reputation of scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was practically accused of being a communist spy based on what apparently was very flimsy evidence, apparently in service of grudges that the paper's brass held against Bill Clinton.

2. After conducting a months-long campaign, featuring several stories on page A1, the front page of the paper (not just the sports section), to change Augusta National Golf Club's discriminatory policy against admitting women to the club (a policy that I think is idiotic and wrong (scroll down to "Why is Sexism Bad and Racism OK?")), Raines actually killed two columns by New York Times sports columnists that opposed the position that was taken by Raines' front page and by the editorial page. As a general rule, newsrooms don't interfere with sportswriters, and for good reason-- news editors tend to know very little about sports. Nor should good newspapers prevent their columnists from expressing dissenting views-- and this goes as well for Times sportswriters as it does for Bill Safire on the op-ed page. Raines was eventually forced to back down and run the columns, though the paper still lies about the reason the columns were spiked, claiming it was because the two award-winning columnists turned in substandard work, rather than columns that disagreed with the position being taken by the paper.

3. Now, as Mickey Kaus reports, it turns out Raines killed coverage of New Jersey Sen. Robert Toricelli's ethical misdeeds (the Times covers New Jersey and Connecticut politics, as well as New York politics, as a "local" story, because many of the paper's readers live in those states and commute to New York City), because he didn't want the paper to cause Toricelli to be forced out of the Senate (as he eventually was) resulting in a shift in control of the Senate to the Republicans. As a result, the Times' sources went to a TV station, which broke the story.

The New York Times is the "paper of record", a proud institution with a great professional reputation. Unfortunately, with Raines in charge, it's amateur hour, and the paper is being run like a Fleet Street tabloid. It's time for "regime change" at the New York Times.

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