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No Mention Of Libya On The NYT’s Front Page

From the ‘public editor’ of the New York Times:

Why Wasn’t Libya Hearing on Page A1 of The Times?

By MARGARET SULLIVAN | Thurs October 11, 2012

Stories about Wednesday’s Congressional hearing on Libya were prominently displayed on the front pages of major newspapers throughout the United States on Thursday morning.

The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, for example, both led with the story, meaning that editors placed it in the primary news position on their front pages.

But The New York Times was not among them. The six stories on The Times’s front page included one on affirmative action at universities, one on Lance Armstrong’s drug allegations, two related to the presidential election, one on taped phone calls at JPMorgan Chase, and one on a Tennessee woman who died of meningitis. The major artwork on Page A1 was from Syria, and the only mention of the hearing on Libya came in a one-paragraph summary at the bottom, leading readers to a well-displayed story on Page A3.

Ms. Sullivan is talking about the October 11th edition of The Times. But their October 10th front page did not mention Libya or the State Department’s pre-hearing revelations at all. However, that front page did find room for a lengthy article about Bain Capital’s ties to China, decades after Mitt Romney left Bain.

I talked with Jill Abramson, the executive editor, about the decision, which she said she may have set in motion while running the morning news meeting on Wednesday.

“I said that I wanted us to weigh the news value against the reality that Congressional hearings are not all about fact-finding,” she said. In other words, they are often deeply politicized.

Which is why the New York Times never featured front page articles about Watergate or Iran Contra or the Tom Foley scandal.

She described The Times’s Libya coverage in recent weeks as “excellent and very muscular,” and she said that for her and the managing editor Dean Baquet, “it’s been one of the absolute key stories – getting to the bottom of what happened and why.”

What a laugh. Compare the New York Time’s feeble coverage on Libya, to say, their coverage of Abu Ghraib, which The Times put on their front page for 47 days.

She suggested that she puts more emphasis on The Times’s original reporting. “We have done a lot on the security issues in Libya and will continue, with our own reporters, to pursue this,” she said.

Mr. Baquet, who ran the afternoon news meeting at which the decision was made, said the reasoning was simple enough: “I didn’t think there was anything significantly new in it,” he said.

There was no news in the testimony from the State Department that directly contradicted the previous White House line? Or was that news just not "fit to print"?

Like Ms. Abramson, he was wary of the political nature of the hearing, noting that “It’s three weeks before the election and it’s a politicized thing, but if they had made significant news, we would have put it on the front.”

And we all know how The Times buries stories that could affect elections. Such as the revelation of George Bush’s DWI. Or John McCain’s extra-marital affair. (An affair, the NYT simply made up.)

And, he added, “There were six better stories.”

Such as a story on how the Supreme Court might rule on affirmative action.

But many readers wrote to me Thursday morning in dismay. They were disturbed not only by the lack of Page 1 coverage, but also by what they see as not enough attention paid to Libya and the events surrounding the fatal attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi

I believe that the Libya hearing story belonged on The Times’s front page. It had significant news value, regardless of the political maneuvering that is inevitable with less than four weeks to go until the election. And more broadly, there is a great deal of substance on this subject that warrants further scrutiny.

I can’t think of many journalistic subjects that are more important right now, or more deserving of aggressive reporting.

Of course, all of this is all just window dressing. Nothing will change.

After all, lest we forget, their previous ‘public editor’ recently vowed that The Times was going to take a much harder look at Obama’s record. And we have seen how that is going.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, October 15th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “No Mention Of Libya On The NYT’s Front Page”

  1. GetBackJack

    Further comment unnecessary.

    I used to have a subscription to the NYT just so I could use it light the fires in my woodstove.

    True story.

  2. Right of the People

    They’re following their orders from Dear Leader.


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