The Jayson Blair fiasco has not affected the power of The New York Times. The Newspaper of Record still can start an avalanche of liberal spin on television. Its front page can still launch a thousand ships with cannons trained on any conservative influence that surfaces in the Washington policy arena.
On June 19, the Times devoted part of its front page to a leak from a disgruntled environmental bureaucrat. The scoop? The Environmental Protection Agency's forthcoming report on the state of the environment had been edited by the White House, and "a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs."
So what? Our government churns tons of paper each year for Washington reporters to consider or ignore. Even those tons of paper edited by the White House are usually too massive to trouble the scholars of the press. What is new about an executive branch report being revised by the chief executive's team? It's just a report, not a bill before Congress, or an executive order, or a new set of regulations.
If you were a liberal environmentalist, you'd think otherwise.
Which explains the network reaction. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and CNBC all lunged for the Times' scooplet. How predictable: Leak something to liberal reporters in advance, and suggest that the White House is in disarray and conflict due to obnoxious conservatives, and you're headed for the spotlight at a mile a minute.
To hear the networks tell this tale, there aren't liberals and conservatives in this policy battle. There aren't scientific boosters of global warming theory on one side and scientific skeptics on the other. No, liberalism for the purposes of this news cycle was packaged as the essence of nonpartisanship, idealism, sound science, the public interest, and the well-being of small children and bunnies. The conservative perspective was, naturally, the opposite: partisan, unscientific, cynical, bought and paid for by arrogant corporate polluters.
It's all in a night's work of fairness and balance.
ABC's Barry Serafin groaned that "Environmentalists are angry about what they regard as science pushed aside by politics." Dan Rather laid it on thick, saying the greens were "taking the president to task for what they say was the cynical changing of a major report on global warming. They say it was altered to put hardball partisan politics over hard independent science."