John Leo

Many of us at this justifiably famous newspaper are sorely vexed by assertions that we are somehow guilty of tilting the news to fit our editorial views. We can assure you that here at the New York Liberal Cocoon, admittedly the finest paper in the world, we don?t operate that way. It is simply untrue that we recently ran a story under the headline ?Hurricanes Increase Under Bush Regime.? Yes, severe tropical storms were more rare during the Carter and Clinton years, but evidence conclusively linking Bush and Cheney to disastrous hurricane activity and Mount St. Helens eruptions has not yet turned up. We do, however, have several reporters working on it.

Our editors also feel severely chafed by the accusation that many of our front-page articles are not really news at all but rather illustrations of our editorial-page arguments. Yes, we have run many articles showing that Americans are poorer, stouter, more psychotic, less well dressed, and more prone to hangnails and paper cuts since Bush took office. But these reports are legitimate news. For example, our report last week, ?Sure, Country is Divided, but Bush Country, Too?? conveyed our wonderment that even in Crawford, Texas, Bush?s hometown, some folks intend to vote for Kerry. This was news. If we discover that several people in Boston intend to vote for Bush, I?m sure we will run that story on our front page, too.

To the casual reader, many of our front-page articles may look a bit like editorials. Last week, one article took a stern look at President Bush?s foreign policy, and another more or less said that Republicans feared that Mr. Bush looked like a loser in the debates. We call this interpretive journalism, and if our reporters interpret things the way the owner and editors of this paper do, well, that?s just a coincidence. For instance, in his front-page analysis after the third presidential debate, the Cocoon reporter said the debates were ?a rough passage for Mr. Bush,? who ?occasionally seemed agitated,? whereas, Mr. Kerry ?delivered a consistent set of assertive, collected performances.? Some readers believe the headline should have said ?Reporter is Voting For Kerry? instead of ?A Crucial Test, But Not Final.?

Unfortunately, our own public editor, or ombudsman, may have contributed to anti-Cocoon sentiment when he recently wrote that on social issues, if you think that our newspaper ?plays it down the middle on any of them, you?ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.? This is not our view. While we welcome and respect disagreement, we will deal with this so-called public editor soon.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

Be the first to read John Leo's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.