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Dec 8, 2013.

Other Voices:

The New York Times: An Introduction

Return to Analyses of NY Times Urban Transport Issues

First of All, Should I Read It or Not?
NYT LogoTo read -- or even just skim -- the New York Times on a daily basis in order to "keep informed" is no easy commitment. Compared to NYC's two city tabloids, and the Long Island-focused Newsday, the Times tries to cover quite a bit of ground, marshaling greater quantities of actual facts and evidence, often in a serious and intelligent way, than any other daily paper in the country. [The Wall Street Journal is striving to be a competitor - more on that below.] Unfortunately, despite the real journalism it provides, much else is suspect, for a wide variety of reasons, many outside the scope of this website's analysis. The paper's signature writing style forces readers to slog through a lot of tedious restatements and overt filler to find the really important nuggets of information. Numerous thinly camouflaged promotions, info-tainment, admiration of mindless consumerism and "soft news" that clog the paper are designed to provide a benign climate for their advertisers, and at the same time offset the paper's "hard" reporting, that might disturb these advertisers. [All too often this filler just happens to mesh closely with their major advertisers' deepest profit concerns -- known as greed -- and fears.] Certainly most readers welcome in the paper occasional lifestyle, human interest and even merchandising stories, but the Times seems choked with this stuff.

NYC: Knee-Deep in Political Muck - But Who's Reporting It?
Basically, no-one. The ruined weekly Village Voice, one of the few outposts of actual muck-raking investigative reporting in the city, was sold numerous times in recent years, and is seriously shrunken in size, intelligence and importance. Its last genuine journalists, Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins, both either quit or were forced out in early 2011. During the Bloomberg era, NYC's permanent government was essentially fraudulent - in public, the City Council doing a form of kabuki in league with billionaire Mayor Bloomberg. Bloomberg was a master of slick public relations, maintained a low profile and oatmeal public image, while quietly buying off independent voices and keeping up deliberately distracting minor issues such as the Big Gulp Ban. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city, he continued to bankroll the local and national Republican Party (possibly boosting the first election of George Bush to the Presidency in 2004) and cut closed-door business deals, such as the two baseball stadiums, that were manifestly not in our interests. As always, New York's perennial crises -- traffic, pollution, noise, the severe lack of affordable housing, ongoing police brutality against minorities, construction site deaths from unsafe conditions, crane crashes, dysfunctional public schools, inadequate garbage recycling and regressive taxation -- all careen on, unchecked. Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio will have a lot on his plate.

The Tabloids
The tabloids -- the Daily News and the Post, both steady money losers because of their poor quality, are owned by rightwingers - Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch, respectively - and these two billionaires don't hesitate to use their properties as megaphones to shout down local politicians who might interfere with their or their crony friends' business and real estate plans. [The true character of these two sociopathic men can be gleaned from kid-glove profiles of each of them that have appeared in the New Yorker.] Any real journalism that appears in the News or the Post is strictly by chance. The once-great Newsday was sold to L.A. business interests who gutted the paper, then sold it to the Long Island-based Dolan family, owners of Cablevision and MSG, in '08. [Newsday's newstand price was hiked 25 percent in Oct 2012.] The Dolans have relentlessly downsized the paper, subjected it to unnecessary redesigns, fired a lot of journalists, and emphasized even more consumerist hype, worthless-celebrity vomit-fluff, encouragement of alcoholism among the young, and a smattering of extremely parochial local Long Island news.

As for readers of the Post and the Daily News, most of them may or may not agree with Murdoch's and Zuckerman's corporate-protectionist views, bigotry, chauvinism and thuggish take on events, especially since those papers commonly contradict such readers' own economic and social interests. But these same papers make sure their readers are conditioned to find repugnant the relentless elitism of the NY Times and its focus on the concerns of the region's upper middle class, the rich and the super-rich white folks. Despite the Times' misty-eyed self-advertising about its journalistic practice, the paper's business owners' prime concern is the national edition, again, the better to enhance various business interests. That's why they treat NYC like a third-world nation, and that's why the Metro section was squashed in Oct '08 (see below).

The 'Respectable Right Wing' in NYC: First the Sun, now the Journal
At about the same time that the Times sank the separate NY section, a broadsheet challenger from the extreme rightwing, the New York Sun, went under - perhaps because it was so obviously a front for real estate interests and because it insisted in pushing extreme hard-rightwing views, essentially a mouthpiece for the rightwing Manhattan Institute. The existence of this reactionary paper in a city with perhaps one of the nation's highest percentage of progressive and well-informed citizens was truly a paradox.

The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal launched a separate New York section in spring 2010, in an open challenge to the Times, which responded with a new round of ads crowing how good their coverage is (but little change in actual coverage). There is some interesting metro-NYC coverage in the Journal, but predictably, the agenda is on real estate and the rich and super-rich, and the perspective mostly belongs to that of politically connected developers. The Journal's opinion pages, reflecting the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch, are perhaps the most reactionary in the country, and do not belong in a civilized city.

Some Alternatives - and Journalist Frauds
There are some on-line sources of news about NYC's pathetic, stalemated transportation situation, such as Streetsblog and the The Indypendent, published 17 times a year [more about on-line sources later]. There are some excellent small-circulation local weeklies, such as the Villager, Chelsea Now and Downtown Express, that do a pretty good job covering the streets and ongoing development scandals, and often print Charlie Komanoff's terrific letters and op-eds. Incisive local coverage in the dailies is spotty at best. The crappy free paper Metro long ago used to run fine articles by Patrick Arden and Amy Zimmer on transit, overdevelopment, parks encroachment/privatization, toxic plastic turf, etc. -- all of concern to those New Yorkers without second or third homes. But they are gone gone gone. Make no mistake about it - these free papers -- Metro and amNewYork -- journalistically are frauds, routinely blenderizing the news, garbling facts, mashing up viewpoints and omitting essentials. They too are fronts for big business, various rip-offs and real estate/tavern interests, just like their bigger competitors.

Conclusion - Read Everything!
So, then, is the Times a great journalistic standard bearer, using its powerful front page to embarrass wrongdoers before the world, or just another camouflaged parasite feeding off NYC's human and artistic capital, grassroots energies and youth, giving precious little in return and misleading and misinforming at every chance to benefit its advertisers and the city's richest corporations, fiefdoms and most well-off people? Perhaps both?

Nevertheless, the Times stands as the paper of record - and you will find many references to it throughout this website. A fuller review of this paper is beyond the scope of this webpage - please check out some of the many books (including John Hess' My Times: A Memoir of Dissent), magazine articles and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting critiques about the newspaper that many consider the country's finest and most professional. We recommend reading everything, so that patterns of bias in the media, when juxtaposed against ownership and profit motives, can become more obvious. Also, support alternative media, such as the very organization whose website you are reading from!

One thing is certain, as can be seen by all the frantic "mea culpas" and "ombudsmanning" the paper's been printing -- the Times does have a thin skin -- even as it continues the same biases, and makes the same mistakes, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation . . . The editors, counting on sheer volume of words dumped on us every day, and being able to re-spin their spin to deflect criticism, have molded it, at least on some issues, into a very fast-moving, shape-changing target. That's why, on our Analyses page, we present in most recent first order some short critiques of articles which appeared in the Times' print edition, focusing on urban/transport issues. Note that apparently some articles in the print edition are NOT available online at the Times' website!

News analysis provided by Auto-Free NY web manager, Wayne Fields []. As the paper of record, all of the above-mentioned articles are available on-line or [possibly] on microfilm at your local library.

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