New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson is a good interviewee. In a chat with John Seigenthaler on AlJazeera.com, Abramson says without equivocation that the Obama administration runs the “most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering,” a sweep of history that dates back to President Reagan. That assessment sounds a lot like that of CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer.
When asked by Seigenthaler about the New York Times’s reportorial worldview, Abramson again delivered:
Everybody has an opinion of the New York Times, so let’s talk about some opinions of the Times. And in particular, The New York Times is often labeled as left-wing, liberal. How do you respond to that?
I respond to it by saying I think the New York Times represents a kind of cosmopolitan outlook towards the world and to this country and this city that may strike, you know, some readers as liberal because we have, you know, paid a lot of attention to stories like gay marriage, but these are newsworthy currents in our society.
But it’s not liberal in the sense of being doctrinaire or tied to the Democratic Party in any way. You know, I’ve run many investigative stories and political stories that have made liberal political figures furious.
That answer has some history. Back in 2004, then-Public Editor Daniel Okrent wrote:
Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. doesn’t think this walk through The Times is a tour of liberalism. He prefers to call the paper’s viewpoint “urban.” He says that the tumultuous, polyglot metropolitan environment The Times occupies means “We’re less easily shocked,” and that the paper reflects “a value system that recognizes the power of flexibility.”
He’s right; living in New York makes a lot of people think that way, and a lot of people who think that way find their way to New York (me, for one). The Times has chosen to be an unashamed product of the city whose name it bears, a condition magnified by the been-there-done-that irony afflicting too many journalists. Articles containing the word “postmodern” have appeared in The Times an average of four times a week this year — true fact! — and if that doesn’t reflect a Manhattan sensibility, I’m Noam Chomsky.
Okrent went on to hit the paper for coverage of gay marriage that “approaches cheerleading.”
When another public editor — Arthur Brisbane, in August 2012 — criticized the paper for tilting progressive, Abramson credited Okrent’s work on the matter: “I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” Abramson told Politico. “But I also often quote, including in talks with Mr. Brisbane, another executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, who wanted to be remembered for keeping ‘the paper straight.’ That’s essential.”
So, the political spectrum according to the New York Times: conservative, centrist, cosmopolitan, liberal.