More letters, even from the left, mourning the Gray Lady's slide into advocacy journalism

There she goes, there she goes again.

Right there in the sacred pages of The New York Times.

You remember, I hope, Liz Spayd -- the pro-American Model of the press scribe who is currently serving as public editor at the Times. During the media meltdown after the election of Citizen Donald Trump as president, she wrote a column addressing the fact that the Gray Lady, as well as the rest of America's elite media, missed this story for some pretty obvious reasons.

The headline for her column said it all: "Want to Know What America’s Thinking? Try Asking."

In my second post about the MSM meltdown, I underlined this passage from her Times column:

Readers are sending letters of complaint at a rapid rate. Here’s one that summed up the feelings succinctly, from Kathleen Casey of Houston: “Now, that the world has been upended and you are all, to a person, in a state of surprise and shock, you may want to consider whether you should change your focus from telling the reader what and how to think, and instead devote yourselves to finding out what the reader (and nonreaders) actually think.”
Another letter, from Nick Crawford of Plymouth, Mich., made a similar point. “Perhaps the election result would not be such a surprise if your reporting had acknowledged what ordinary Americans care about, rather than pushing the limited agenda of your editors,” he wrote. “Please come down from your New York City skyscraper and join the rest of us.”

Well, bless her heart, Spayd is back with another column on this topic and, in it, she offers more insights from the flood of letters and emails continue to swamp her desk. This time the headline reads: "One Thing Voters Agree On: Better Campaign Coverage Was Needed."

First, a bit of factual information about this wave if feedback:

Since the election, I have been on the phone with many Times readers around the country ... to discuss their concerns about The Times’s coverage of the presidential election. The number of complaints coming into the public editor’s office is five times the normal level, and the pace has only just recently tapered off.
My colleague Thomas Feyer, who oversees the letters to the editor, says the influx from readers is one of the largest since Sept. 11.

Now, few would be surprised to learn that Trump voters are upset about being consistently portrayed as racist, sexist, xenophobic, fundamentalist, homophobic knuckle-draggers from the sticks. However, that isn't the theme in this column that makes it must reading for those who are truly concerned about the status of public discourse in this country, and the role the Times plays in it. (Must reading: "Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America.")

No, it appears that some Times readers on the cultural and political left -- at least a few -- are mourning the fact that the nation's most powerful newspaper has, in some key political and cultural coverage, sold it's journalistic birthright for a mess of advocacy pottage (that's a biblical metaphor, folks).

Few could deny that if Trump’s more moderate supporters are feeling bruised right now, the blame lies partly with their candidate and his penchant for inflammatory rhetoric. But the media is at fault too, for turning his remarks into a grim caricature that it applied to those who backed him. What struck me is how many liberal voters I spoke with felt so, too. They were Clinton backers, but, they want a news source that fairly covers people across the spectrum.
Horst Gudemann of Jackson, Wyo., says he doesn’t want to be spoon-fed opinions that The Times thinks he should have, and he doesn’t want his primary news source to stereotype half the country as racists. “We shouldn’t judge Black Lives Matters by its most extremist members, and we shouldn’t judge Trump followers by theirs,” Gudemann told me.

What about that unusual letter from Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor, Dean Baquet, the one that restated the newspaper's commitment to basic journalism, including a pledge to "understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences" in its coverage?"

Well, some folks noted that this letter also congratulated the Times team for its fine coverage of this year's election.

Say what? Including disputes over religious liberty and other hot-button religious topics?

Chavi Eve Karkowsky, an obstetrician in New York City, saw the letter through the lens of her own profession. “In medicine when something goes wrong, we ask: ‘Where did we get this information? Why? What should we do differently?’ We break it down to its very basic level,” she said. Karkowsky would have preferred a real apology, she said, and some sense that The Times was looking inward.

So you know what I have to say: Read it all. And stay tuned.

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