New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan — whose job is to critique the Times’ coverage — isn’t happy about the paper’s decision to not place yesterday’s congressional hearings on Libya on the front page. After noting that other newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal had given the story front-page treatment, Sullivan talked to the head honchos at the Times:
I talked with Jill Abramson, the executive editor, about the decision, which she said she may have set in motion while running the morning news meeting on Wednesday.
“I said that I wanted us to weigh the news value against the reality that Congressional hearings are not all about fact-finding,” she said. In other words, they are often deeply politicized.
Mr. Baquet, who ran the afternoon news meeting at which the decision was made, said the reasoning was simple enough: “I didn’t think there was anything significantly new in it,” he said.
Like Ms. Abramson, he was wary of the political nature of the hearing, noting that “It’s three weeks before the election and it’s a politicized thing, but if they had made significant news, we would have put it on the front.”
And, he added, “There were six better stories.”
We’re less than a month out before an election — unless the NYT wants to run just health, sports, and style stories, I’m not sure how they’re going to avoid politicized stories. And Sullivan doesn’t agree with Abramson and Baquet’s decision:
I believe that the Libya hearing story belonged on The Times’s front page. It had significant news value, regardless of the political maneuvering that is inevitable with less than four weeks to go until the election. And more broadly, there is a great deal of substance on this subject that warrants further scrutiny.
I can’t think of many journalistic subjects that are more important right now, or more deserving of aggressive reporting.
One of the things that I found fascinating about yesterday’s hearing was how little the Democrat House members presented seemed interested in asking hard questions. Regardless of the outcome of this presidential election, shouldn’t everyone on both sides of the aisle want to make sure that this horrific outcome of a terrorist attack — four dead, others injured — happen again?