NY Times Public Apologist Clark Hoyt explains the Times' role as an earnest servant of a curious public in these parlous times, with their coverage of Sarah Palin as a launch point:
In our instant-news and celebrity- obsessed culture, Palin went from Sarah Who to conservative rock star in less than a week. In less than two months, she could be elected vice president to serve under the oldest president, at 72, ever elected to a first term, and one with a history of recurring melanoma. Intense, independent scrutiny by The Times and the rest of the news media of Palin’s background, character and record was inevitable and right.
Intense and independent! This from the Public Editor of the paper that has yet to use the phrase "Annenberg Challenge" in a story noting that Barack Obama and Bill Ayers worked together on education reform while with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, disbursing roughly $160 million in a venture ultimately judged by the Annenberg Foundation itself as having "limited impact".
Why isn't this news fit to print? The Times did report on the Ayers/Obama connection when George Stepanopolous brought it up during the Philadelphia debate last April. And they intensely and independently probed the right wing group that aired an ad linking Obama and Ayers, almost reporting on the Obama/Ayers link in the process. This is what they let slip:
Mr. Ayers, now a professor of education in Chicago, was a founder of the Weather Underground, which bombed government buildings in the early 1970s. He was indicted on conspiracy charges that were thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.
He served with Mr. Obama on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a charitable organization, and, along with his wife, the former Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn, hosted Mr. Obama at his home in 1995 when he was running for state office.
Mr. Obama has called Mr. Ayers “’somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old.”
Fox News Channel and CNN declined to run the spot amid legal questions. But the commercial, a minute long, has run at least 100 times since Saturday, heavily in East Lansing and Pittsburgh.
Saying that Mr. Obama’s supporters had sent 93,000 e-mails to the Sinclair broadcasting company for carrying the advertisement, Tommy, a campaign spokesman, said, “Other stations that follow Sinclair’s lead should expect a similar response from people who don’t want the political discourse cheapened with these false, negative attacks.”
The fight may move to another front this week.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is in the process or releasing documents detailing Mr. Obama’s involvement with a non-profit education project started by Mr. Ayers.
That last sentence is the newspapers entire coverage of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge controversy. As I recall, they also had one post at The Opinionator blog. And their mention that Obama worked with a group Ayers founded hardly captures the fact that Ayers worked closely with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge for several years while Barack was the chairman approving funding proposals. Obama did not merely work at a group Ayers founded - he almost surely worked closely with Ayers, and is concealing that now.
Sarah Palin is running for Vice President. Obama is running for President. Maybe it is time for an independent look at his record. Or maybe a candidate's history and experience with public school reform (and current cover-up of same) is simply not as newsworthy or relevant to the average voter as a story about a candidate's pregnant daughter.