NOVAK-GATE IV: WAPO VS. NYT
Matthew Yglesias has a new piece in The American Prospect exploring the question that I’ve asked several times: Why WaPo is so hot on the Plame story while NYT (and virtually everyone else not blogging) is indifferent.
My recent move from New York City to Washington has brought with it a lot of changes, among them a new morning newspaper. Yesterday, that switch paid off in the form of a magnificent front-page article by Mike Allen and Dana Priest in The Washington Post. The piece confirmed reports that two Bush administration officials had blown the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame and quoted a senior administration official as saying it was done “purely and simply for revenge.”
While the Post was breaking big news of apparently illegal conduct by senior White House officials, The New York Times was left scrambling, eventually offering up a brief, un-bylined article that was significantly less informative than the Post’s coverage. A quick glance at today’s papers seemed to indicate that the Times was now ignoring the story altogether, but more careful scrutiny revealed that the information from the previous day’s story had been thrown into a page-one piece by Carl Hulse and David Sanger headlined “New Criticism on Prewar Use of Intelligence” — the main focus of which is on a letter from the House Committee on Intelligence. Interestingly enough, the Post had that story yesterday as well.
In both cases, it would appear that the Times’ inferior coverage is the fault of inferior access to sources of information rather than poor news judgment.
With Raines forced from office in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, the new management led by Bill Keller seems to be bending over backward to address these complaints by deliberately downplaying coverage of intelligence scandals that threaten to engulf the administration. Whether this will do the Times any good with its conservative critics remains to be seen, but the paper is threatening to shut itself out of what may develop into a major story. [original contains several hyperlinks]
That the NYT is gun shy strikes me as a plausible partial explanation for this. It does not, however, explain why WaPo seems to be virtually alone among the major media outlets in making a big deal of a story that, if true, would seem to be banner headline, 24-hour coverage, stop-the-presses significant.