The Blog

Defending the Indefensible

The Los Angeles Times strikes back at its critics, and gets rung up by the blogosphrere (again).

12:00 AM, Oct 16, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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LIKE MOST CALIFORNIANS, I am sick of discussing the Los Angeles Times.

I had intended to write this week about the sudden crystallization of the Democratic party around the campaign theme "Higher Taxes, Lower Defenses." This combination of Mondale economics with McGovernite foreign policy is without precedent in American political history and deserves close examination. The appearances of Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller on the weekend talk shows presented even more opportunities to ruminate on the collapse of coherence within Democratic ranks.

But the Times keeps asking for more. Over 1,000 subscribers have cancelled the paper since the Times joined up with Team Davis in the recall, and at least one advertiser dropped planned ads. Perhaps all of this explains why editor John Carroll felt obliged to try and make a stand in defense of his paper.

Carroll's strange piece ran in Sunday's paper but was available online Saturday, and I blogged a response on Saturday. Now Jill Stewart has not only smashed up Carroll's arguments, but also produced some pretty devastating reporting on the Times's agenda journalism. More criticisms of Carroll will follow since the Times has launched a huge debate on the collapse of newsroom ethics and the ideological imbalance of editorial staffs. (President Bush even entered the debate this week by pointing out the elite media's mishandling of the Iraq reconstruction effort.)

The core problem is that within elite media there is an overwhelming bias towards the Democratic party. That bias manifests itself in a 100 different ways. (For example, someone with some time ought to look at the Times's polling efforts in the past three months.)

The left-leaning newsroom isn't going to be corrected by editors sending memos, but by market forces feeding on the Internet's destruction of the oligopoly in news distribution. Stewart pens her article, I link to it here, it's then blogged by folks who never visit her site, and it gets posted and chewed over at various bulletin boards everywhere from FreeRepublic to DemocraticUnderground. The Times can neither make the story go away nor spin it because opinion elites no longer depend upon news elites to set the table. They can order in.

WHICH LEADS TO some big, unanswered questions. What is the Times's standard on allegations of sexual misconduct against candidates and elected officials? Do all anonymous complaints get treated the same way? Is there any way to reconcile the paper's treatment of Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger? Is there any statute of limitations, and if not, given Clinton's continued visibility and influence within the Democratic party, will the Times be expanding its coverage of his lifestyle, past and present?

And what about the 2004 election? How is the Times planning to cover Barbara Boxer's reelection bid? And the Democratic presidential candidates? Are they playing under Arnold rules or Bill/Gray rules?

The Times has provided a useful glimpse into the operations of the hit-piece agenda journalism that defines today's newsroom. The blogosphere is the antidote. That and the availability of USA Today on a driveway near your front door.

Choice is the answer, and people are choosing not to read the Los Angeles Times.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.