By GEORGE SALAMON / The decision of The New York Times not to depict the cover of Charlie Hebdo after ten of the French magazine’s journalists had been murdered by Islamic terrorists has drawn much deserved criticism in the United States and abroad, in comments from the editorial page editor of the Denver Post to a reporter’s charge of “cowardice” in the German newsweekly DER SPIEGEL. Within the ranks of Times editors the decision not to depict the cover, which showed a tearful Prophet Muhammad holding up a “Je Suis Charlie” sign, was defended by Executive Editor Dean Baquet: “My first most important job is to serve the readers of The New York Times, and a big chunk of the readers of The New York Times are people who would be offended by showing satire of the Prophet Muhammad…That reader is a guy who lives in Brooklyn and is Islamic and has a family and is devout and just happens to find that insulting.” Some might be surprised that among Brooklyn’s Muslim population (3.73% or 95,000 out of 2.5 million) there can be found a “big chunk” of the Times’ readership.
Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times since September 2011 and the first woman in that position, was fired by the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. on May 14. It was ugly. Some journalists referred to it as a defenestration. Ms. Abramson, in a commencement speech at Wake Forest University on May 19 called it “getting dumped.” It has created a huge buzz in the media. Within the first 24 hours after the event, not attended by Ms. Abramson, The Washington Post ran ten stories about it. Almost immediately columns appeared, telling readers what it “really” meant. As they say in New York City, Ms. Abramson’s home town, “Oh yeah?” Ms. Abramson charged that she was dumped so suddenly and unceremoniously because she complained about getting paid less than the male predecessors in her job. Mr. Sulzberger claimed she was let go because of her management style in the newsroom, a style described by adjectives like brusque, arbitrary, harsh, non-collaborative and despotic.
By now the effects of what those numbers don’t reveal are felt in the bones and marrow of those suffering from the effects. And in four articles between April 21 and May 10, all on page 1, the Times painted vivid portraits of hardship and hopelessness now rampant from the dirt poor in West Virginia to the once comfortable middle class in California. The first piece, “50 Years Later, Hardship Hits Back. Poorest Counties Are Still Losing in War on Want,” (April 21) describes life in McDowell County, West Virginia, the poorest county in the state, “emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than half a century.” After President John F. Kennedy visited this county, he established the federal food stamp program with his first executive order. And it was the squalor in this county and in others in Appalachia that President Lyndon B. Johnson had in mind for the battleground of his “war on poverty.”
BY PAT LOUISE / When former New York Times Executive Editor Abraham “A.M.” Rosenthal died in May 2006, his obituary lauded his numerous accomplishments during his 56 years at the newspaper. He had won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting and led the paper through coverage of the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers. He also was credited as initiating the now industry standard practice of running corrections in a fixed spot for readers to find. The New York Times chose Page 2 for its corrections, and many newspapers followed. He and the Times began the practice in 1972.
BY GEORGE SALAMON / Media coverage can’t please either side on the Israel-Palestine or Israel-Iran conflicts. Once that’s accepted as a given, the differences in stories no longer garner much attention. The “liberal” media reveal bias for the Palestinian cause and are soft on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and goal of wiping the Zionist entity off the map. The “conservative” press expresses uncritical support for Israel and fails to recognize Iran’s legitimate quest to join the world’s nuclear powers club, which includes Israel. That’s the long-standing mantra of the complaints.
BY GEORGE SALAMON / Just this past Sunday journalism’s unceasing debate on anonymous sources reared its head again. In the October 13 Sunday Review section of The New York Times Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s fifth public editor, wrote about “The Disconnect on Anonymous Sources.” Dan Okrent, first public editor from 2003 to 2005, confronted the same issue during his tenure. Even then, novelist and New York magazine columnist Kurt Andersen had already had enough: “…the customary righteousness, disingenuousness, futility and wonky tedium of such debates are for me almost unbearable.”
BY GEORGE SALAMON / What an enticing headline the New York Times featured on Page 1 Sept. 30: “Warren is Now Hot Ticket On the Far Left.” The story, written by Jonathan Martin, told readers how Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has become the darling and favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 among America’s “far left,” and thus a threat to the party’s centrist front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
BY SCOTT LAMBERT / Whistleblowers, leakers, and a battle between the working press and the government. James Goodale’s “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles” tells a story that has just as much importance today as it did in 1972, when the battle for press freedom reached the U.S. Supreme Court.