Ross Mackenzie

The New York Times has a new executive editor, Bill Keller. But at The Times the beat may go on - indications are that it will - until, good golly Miss Molly, the very hirer of Keller hires out elsewhere.

A 40-year history of regular - daily - reading of The Times speaks overwhelmingly to two points:

First, in terms of coverage The Times has been the most estimable newspaper in the world. It has been the newspaper of record for number of stories - with datelines war-torn, provincial and exotic - for length of stories and for extent of space given to those stories. As many outside the industry depend on particular news sources, so those within journalism long have depended on The Times as their fundamental source of news, including (in this case) the fundamental source of news for the commentary they write.

Second, in terms of the ideology present in its news columns The Times has been lopsidedly leftist and grows consistently and overtly more so. Anyone reading The Times for objectivity often has had to filter out the ideology on the way to finding the facts. The Times' depth of coverage has given it an objective cachet: "all the news that's fit to print"; if it's in The Times, it must be right. Yet the liberalism infusing the news columns has been obvious to anyone with his eyes (and mind) open.

In the past several years, during the regime of the recently departed Howell Raines, the leftism of the news columns became as "screamingly" obvious as the last concert by the Stones.

As editor of The Times' editorial page, Raines may have brightened that page's dishwater prose, but overall he made the opinion pages more aggressively leftist than ever - and perhaps tellingly he refused to rise above the conservative columnist tokenism that began with the lone conservative Arthur Krock and persists in the solitary William Safire.

(Though years before Raines The Times pioneered the concept of an op/ed page - that is, the page opposite the editorial page devoted to a multiplicity of opinion - The Times op/ed page remains unleavened by conservatism or even moderation except for Safire. Other leading op/ed pages, on the contrary, have added conservatives. Within the industry it's an open secret that in terms of intellect and writing, conservatives dominate those pages, while elsewhere in the mainline press they are practically shut out.)

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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