On Monday, February 7, 2011 the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research held a debate at St. Francis College. The focus of the debate was: Is the New York Times Good for Democracy? However, this debate slowly turned into an aggravated conversation.
The moderator of the debate was Fred Siegel, author and contributing editor of The City Journal. Mr. Siegel has published several books; most recently, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and The Genius of American Life.
In addition to being an accomplished writer, he is also a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a faculty member at the Cooper Union for Science and Art.
William McGown, author of Gray Lady Down, argued passionately that The New York Times, ever since the Rosenthal years, has taken a turn for the worst.
Throughout the night, McGown reported that The New York Times is a “hot bed of liberalism” and claims it is “soft on Islam” and writes on a “pro-immigration script.”
He also brings up The Times in relation to race and affirmative action. References to the Blair incident of 2003 are discussed. Jayson Blair, a former Times reporter, falsified stories that were published in the paper. Many of his colleagues and superiors believed he was promoted in the name of affirmative action rather than talented writing.
Despite all of this information, the idea of: Is the New York Times good for democracy? has not made its way into the debate.
The rebuttal was given by Michael Tomasky, editor of Democracy Journal and The Guardian. Tomasky admitted that The NY Times has had its “share of errors,” including its extreme emphasis on diversity.
Mr. Tomasky argued that the Times can also be a harsh critic of liberalism. Tomasky said that The New York Times used to be a type of “oracle”, especially during the Rosenthal years. In reference to the growth of the mass communication field, he said,“there are a lot more outlets for news than there used to be ...[therefore] there is no such thing as a media critic.”
Just like his advisary, Tomasky never touched on the idea of The New York Times being good for democracy or not.
After the rebuttals, the conversation eventually lead to the question and answer session. Some in the local community were upset, fuming with anger. Others were quite content with what they had just witnessed.
Dr. Frank Macchiarola asked both McGown and Tomasky, “As a Catholic-Italian, can I trust The New York Times?”
McGown answered that The Times is “distant from the realities of Catholicism.” According to Tomasky, no newspaper is ever supposed to "create reality."
This insightful debate taught the audience that they should be critical of any newspaper read. Unfortunately, at the end of the two hour debate, the evening closed with one question left unanswered; burning a hole in the heads of the audience: Is The New York Times good for Democracy?