What Were They Thinking?

Correction: For the Hoppin’ John, the peas may only need to simmer an hour before the rice goes in.

Something I read yesterday has me steamed. I was mad when I read it. Now I’m livid. It is a review from the Sunday New York Times Book Review of The Man Who Owns the News, Michael Wolff’s biography of Rupert Murdoch.I doubt I’ll be reading the book. At 446 pages, it’s way more information than I want or need about one of the world’s more loathsome people. But I did want to read the review to see what the Times had to say of a book about its main competitor in the New York news scene.

Well, as far as I’m concerned the Times has blown its credibility, maybe forever. The editors picked to review the book a man by the name of David Carr who is identified as the author of a memoir (it’s his account of his years of cocaine addiction and eventual recovery), and as “a culture reporter at the Times who writes a media column for the paper’s business section.” Oh, but he’s so much more.

The first three quarters of the review balanced the mildly positive, “The book is a strangely alluring artifact” with the strongly negative, “The Man Who Owns the News … contains shockingly few actual quotations from Murdoch himself…”

Then, seven paragraphs before the end came the kicker. “A lot of people come off as fools and flunkies, including me:” Carr goes on to provide a negative quote about himself, which he then proceeds to refute in a rather coy fashion.

When I read that paragraph, I felt duped. Here was the Times using its own pages – the cover of the Book Review, no less – to refight the war over Murdoch’s takeover of its biggest rival The Wall Street Journal and using one of its own foot soldiers in that battle to fire the shots. Come on. Couldn’t they find a neutral reviewer? Or if they insisted on using “the Carpetbagger,” then put his conflict information up front. Tell readers right away, “This piece is far more biased than the usual opinions we tout on these pages.”

The Times has been on shaky ground ever since Howell Raines and henchmen perpetuated a laissez faire attitude that allowed fabricator druggie Jason Blair to keep working long after editors had sent up warning signs. The Raines aura hung around long enough to give Judith Miller a ton of ink to promote the Iraq War on its front pages and to further damage the Times’ credibility.

Now it’s down to zip.

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