Thursday, January 8, 2009

Live-Blogging Jill Abramson: "You Would Have Preferred To Read A Partisan Hatchet Job. You Won't Find Those In The Times."

Continuing to cut a swath of self-satisfied superiority through her questioners, managing editor Jill Abramson has taken apart a reader who found a Rush Limbaugh profile in the Times Magazine "too kind."

The reader, Corinne Robinson of Minneapolis, wondered why the Times doesn't do more aggressive reporting on the conservative television commentators who use the cable channels to raise suspicions about their enemies, without any reporting to back up their accusations. "Rush is left off the hook because he is 'an entertainer,'" Robinson wrote. "Since when don't entertainers have the tell the truth?"

The piece in question, by Zev Chafets, was a terrific piece of magazine journalism -- a classic example of the benefits of access in providing insight. Limbaugh let Chafets observe him at work, and Chafets allowed Limbaugh the freedom to speak. The result was, as Abramson correctly describes it, a "rich, nuanced portrait."

But Abramson is clearly getting a bit testy on her fourth day of answering complaints. What else can explain her harsh, insulting answer to Robinson's reasonable, polite question?

There seems a suggestion behind your question that the job of The Times is to target for attack certain figures because of their ideology and prominence. The role of a great news organization isn't to make itself a combatant in the ongoing political food fights that unfold each night on cable and elsewhere. Our Rush Limbaugh magazine cover story was a rich, nuanced portrait of someone whose show has made him a large force over time at the intersection of news, politics, business and entertainment. You may have found it too kind because you would have preferred to read a partisan hatchet job. You won't find those in The New York Times.

And by the way, Jill -- when you calm down a little, I suggest you read Pat Jordan's November 30 profile of Mickey Rourke in the Times Magazine. It's a hatchet job in the Times -- yes, a few have slipped in when you weren't looking -- and of a subject far less worthy of one than a right-wing radio commentator on Fox.

"Our journalism has never been more glorious."
--Jill Abramson, managing editor, The New York Times, January 7, 2009


Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but Limbaugh's show is on Premiere Radio Networks, not Fox.


Thanks for the correction. Noted and fixed above.