NYT: “Impartial” … “Impartial” but Anti-Iran

Jill Abramson repeats the word “impartial” several times in this interview on the NYT’s Israel-Iran coverage, almost explicitly invoking what Jay Rosen calls the View from Nowhere.

Q: Do you think there have been articles the Times has published that could be considered pro-attack or anti-attack, or has all of the coverage been impartial?

ABRAMSON: I think all of the coverage has been impartial. I think we have had pieces that have looked very skeptically at the intelligence itself as a predicate for any kind of action against Iran. I really do think our coverage has been impartial. When we are reporting about the debate about this, we are conscious to reach out and report on both sides. But at the end of the day, our job in terms of fairness, accuracy, and depth is to report widely enough that we can try to help readers work their way through where the weight of the evidence seems to be at any given time. That’s very difficult right now, because some of the intelligence is contradictory. Getting the nuances right on this is very important. [my emphasis]

But check out how she guarantees that the NYT isn’t getting dragged into justifying another war again.

Q: What are the concerns and considerations you take into account when covering the tensions between Israel and Iran, especially in light of some to the Times’s failures in the build-up to Iraq?

ABRAMSON: The key issue for us is, there’s murky intelligence on the current state of Iran’s nuclear program. There’s no dispute that they have one, the dispute is Iran saying that it’s for civilian use, and other intelligence saying that it could be for military use.

The debate, at least in Washington, is a little more limited than in 2003, because we’re talking about something that — either on the Israeli end or more broadly — would be a targeted military strike. It’s not the kind of debate we had in 2003 about a full-blown boots on the ground invasion.

In 2003, the Times had flawed coverage on the intelligence concerning WMD. I think a big factual difference is that at least the administration as it shapes its policy is not  actively promoting a policy to strike Iran. That’s a huge, fundamental difference. [my emphasis]

Now, to the NYT’s credit, it is the newspaper that (under Abramson’s guidance) reported that an Israeli strike would set off a regional war including the US. But given that, how does Abramson conclude that this would be nothing more than a targeted strike?

And particularly given that reporting (that a targeted strike really amounts to starting a regional war), note the problem with Abramson’s reassurance that because the Administration is not “actively promoting” a policy to strike Iran, it ensures the NYT’s coverage cannot be flawed.

To strike or not to strike is not necessarily the correct pole here, even if issues like this were as simple as Abramson’s two-sided debate. Even before you get to that question, you need to unpack the “to undermine Iran’s bid for hegemony in the Middle East to reinforce the Sunni-Israeli hegemonic position” presumption. Or even the “in spite of all our problems with Pakistan, Iran is the biggest nuke threat” presumption.

Abramson doesn’t seem to be remotely aware that, even aside from her embrace of false balance over accuracy, she’s unquestioningly embraced the stance the Administration is, for the most part, aggressively pushing, that suggesting that Iran is the biggest problem we face in the Middle East and one that must be solved.

Ah well. That’s not–by any shade–the funniest part of this interview. The funniest part is where Abramson says the NYT needs sources to report on AIPAC’s meeting and general influence.

7 replies
  1. William Ockham says:

    Someday maybe a journalist will figure out that reporting “both sides” of story means that you have been corrupted by one actor on the scene, the one that defined the issue in binary terms.

  2. The Bane of Our Existence says:

    off topic but this USA Federal District Judge seems to be at least trying to be impartial / show signs of wanting a ‘fair’ trial

    Prosecutors on Monday defended their criminal case against seven members of the Hutaree militia who are seeking dismissal of key charges related to an alleged conspiracy to rebel against the US government.

    A request for acquittal is standard practice when prosecutors finish their side of a case. But US District Judge Victoria Roberts told jurors to stay home so she could hear what could be a full day of arguments about the merits of the evidence presented since trial began February 13.

    The judge sharply questioned Assistant US Attorney about defendant Tina Stone, the wife of Hutaree leader David Stone. There’s no dispute she was present and sometimes spoke during hours of conversations secretly recorded by an undercover FBI agent, but she doesn’t appear to be a consistent participant.

    Roberts said prosecutors seem to believe that someone can be charged with conspiracy unless they actively disagree with the plot.

    “So much of this case is about people being present. … Many things the defendants said are quite offensive. But so what?” the judge said.


  3. masaccio says:

    Maybe part of the problem is the poorly formed question: “Q: Do you think there have been articles the Times has published that could be considered pro-attack or anti-attack, or has all of the coverage been impartial?” The interviewer gave Abramson the word.

    I’ve read most of the Times’ coverage of the question, and feel fully armed to support my view that an attack is a really bad idea. It probably helps that the people they quote supporting an attack haven’t ever been right, and offer no reason sufficient to overcome my initial judgment that they are going to be wrong again.

  4. MadDog says:

    In Jill’s mind, the sun revolves around the NYT, New York city, and Washington DC. If there’s any value beyond that in the hinterlands, it’s news to Jill.

  5. The Bane of Our Existence says:

    A judge overseeing the trial of seven members of a Michigan militia signaled that she’s struggling with claims by prosecutors that secretly recorded chats about killing police and making bombs add up to a conspiracy to wage war against the government.

    US District Judge Victoria Roberts heard a full day of arguments from defense lawyers who want key charges dismissed and prosecutors who urged her to keep the trial going and let jurors decide the case. The jury will stay home again while she works on a decision.

    “They’re entitled to oppose the government with their words,” Roberts said. “It’s still unclear to me after hearing all these arguments how that speech crossed the line into becoming illegal, and how I get there without building inferences upon inferences.”

    Defense attorney Mark Satawa said prosecutors took a “grab bag” and “mishmash” of offensive statements and certain acts that were secretly recorded by an undercover FBI agent and rolled them into a rare charge of conspiracy to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the United States.

    “Saying stupid things … is not illegal,” Satawa said. “Running around in the woods in tiger fatigues is not illegal. Carrying around a rifle while running around the woods in tiger fatigues is not illegal.”


  6. Tom Allen says:

    “To strike or not to strike.” While assuming the nation we’re striking has weapons of mass destruction, will be easily conquered, few lives will be lost (at least not Americans). Good old New York Times. Hasn’t learned a thing.

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