Sunday, September 16, 2007

When it comes to slam-dunk criticism, the Times can go only so far

Today's New York Times Book Review contains a mostly positive review of Until Proven Innocent, a thorough dissection of the Duke lacrosse rape case by legal reporter Stuart Taylor and Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson, who, the review fails to note, published voluminous criticism and analysis of the case via his Durham-in-Wonderland blog.

From law professor Jeffrey Rosen's review:
But they are also sharply critical of what they call the one-sided reporting of the nation’s leading newspapers, including The New York Times. With a few exceptions, the authors suggest, The Times’s coverage consistently showed a “pro-Nifong bias,” most notably in a front-page article apparently trying to resurrect the case after it seemed on the verge of collapse.

At least “many of the journalists misled by Nifong eventually adjusted their views as evidence of innocence” came to light, the authors conclude. That’s more than can be said for Duke’s “activist professors"...

(Emphases added)

Note that the reviewer, despite several other critical assessments of the Times's performance (as compiled by Slate media critic Jack Shafer), was unwilling (or not permitted) to offer a conclusion as to whether the Times's coverage was inadequate, instead simply framing the critique as an allegation or suggestion.

Given the Times's defensiveness about its Atlantic Yards coverage--witness the response to my critique of the newspaper's front-page scaleback coverage--I think it's unlikely that any future critique will be treated as more than an allegation.

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