- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2010

The declining state of the American newspaper apparently warms a lot of hearts. Polls tell us about the general public’s disrelish for Congress. Equally disrelished are journalists and newspapers. Frankly, I sympathize. The American journalist is an odd creature. Most are as arrogant and provincial as the average American college professor. Curiously, many journalists even look like university professors, especially journalists from the major liberal newspapers.

There was a day when the average newspaper reporter was a bit of a roughneck and looked the part. Now many are frankly nerdy, though it is not their nerdy looks that inflame the general public. It is their arrogance and insularity. Well, as I say I am in sympathy with the general public, but that does not mean I rejoice in the present sickliness of newspapers. Newspapers are essential to the public discourse of any nation and to the public record.

I most recently expressed these wayward views in a discussion of the notoriously liberal New York Times. I was being interviewed by that very fine conservative journalist Terence P. Jeffrey, former editor of Human Events and now editor-in-chief of CNS News at that bastion of conservative media bashing, the Media Research Center (MRC). Terry was delighting in regaling me with a burlesque he had observed at New York’s Penn Station. The Times was conducting a subscription drive, with an employee handing commuters gifts emblazoned with the Times logo for subscribing. Prospective subscribers treated the poor sap as though he were carrying the plague. They ducked around him, hastening down the hallway, grateful to be free of the New York Times bacterium.

Well, it is an amusing story, but there on the hallowed, conservative ground of the MRC headquarters, I had to express my sympathy for the glum journalists at the Times. I want the newspaper to survive. Even in its ideologically perfervid condition, it is better than no newspaper. We conservatives have our own newspapers, led nationally by the Wall Street Journal. Actually, against mainstream liberal media, we have our own conservative counterculture, led by the Journal, Fox News, talk radio, our think tanks and magazines. We can hold our own against the kultursmog of the mainstream media culture, besmogged as it is by liberal prejudice and bugaboos.

I read the liberal press every day, the Times along with The Washington Post. What is most troubling about the Times is not its ideology or even its inaccuracies. Those of us who read widely can generally spot a newspaper’s inaccuracies. The problem with the Times is its ethics. Just the other day, it claimed to have broken a very significant story through aggressive reporting. It claimed to break the story that a Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, repeatedly made false claims about having served in combat during the Vietnam War.

Now we find out that some of the information used by the Times came from one of Mr. Blumenthal’s potential opponents, Republican Linda McMahon. Once the story was published, Ms. McMahon boasted of it. Surely it was the duty of the newspaper to inform us of its reporters’ use of Ms. McMahon’s material. For that matter, surely the newspaper’s editors should have expected that Ms. McMahon would blow their cover. As I say, modern journalists tend to be arrogant and provincial. Here is a good example of it.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).