The New York Times was once the most respected newspaper in America. It still includes some excellent material–especially that written by some of its best columnists. But the word ‘once" sums it up in this case. The Times has become the place where "news" stories are too often fiction presented as fact.

One of the Times first hoax stories made Al Sharpton’s career as a public figure. Do you remember Tawana Brawley, who said she had been gang-raped by a bunch of white men? She was lying and the Times had not done its homework at all. Then a few years ago Al_sharptonlrs011580
the Duke University "rape" fiasco became a Times story as well. Now we know better. In both cases the TimesThe Star looked more like a newsstand gossip paper like  than a respectable mainstream paper.

Then there was the infamous Jayson Blair incident. Blair was kept on the Times staff while editors knew he was making up stories. He was even promoted until there were enough people that knew the truth that he was outed.

Just a few weeks ago the New York Times created its very own special hoax with a long front page article about how war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were killing people back in the U.S. because of the stress they had gone through in combat.That hoax was shot down two days later by the New York Post, which showed that the murder rate among returning war veterans was only one-fifth the murder rate among civilians in the same age brackets.

Then last week the New York Times came out with its latest front-page scam, a report that claims several anonymous people suspected an affair between Sen. John McCain Acindymccainpicture_150x109
and a female lobbyist who was thirty-plus years his younger. The paper  claims that at best someone tried to forestall an affair who was based in McCain’s office. Buried in the story is the bigger story of McCain being bought by this same lobbyist’s influence. (This part of the story is likely to not go away entirely though it is over eight years old now and was revealed long ago and then tossed around by several media sources looking for more dirt. Since McCain is seen as a person not influenced overmuch by lobbyists this will likely become an issue. Now that McCain is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party the Times decided to resurface this old news with the added suggestion of infidelity. (Face it, sex sells papers even if it has nothing to do with whether or not the person involved can govern.)

Now we know that no one actually claimed that there was an affair between this woman and Senator McCain. So the Times ran a front page report that wasn’t even as good as the way The Star scoops stories since it was not even based on a "he said, she said" incident. And the editorial staff knew all of this when they ran the story last week. So much for responsible journalism.

Thomas Sowell writes: "People who share the Times’ political views are treated as ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ People with different views are condemned for ‘the appearance of impropriety,’ even if here is no hard evidence that they did anything wrong. In this latest ‘news’ story about McCain, the standard seems to be that anonymous sources suspected him of ‘the appearance of impropriety.’"

Thomas Sowell, a brilliant black conservative researcher and writer, ought to know these things. He was nominated to serve in the Gerald Ford administration back in the mid-1970s and tells us that the Times had a report that he was a Communist then, an idea so preposterous as to be laughable if you know the writings of Thomas Sowell. Sowell noted this week that: "This was back in the days when the New York Times still had a reputation for integrity, before the Jayson Blair hoaxes, the gang-rape hoaxes and the general prostitution of the front page to politics masquerading as news." (From his syndicated column this week.) The result was a more responsible choice by the Times when they did not run the rumors about Sowell. Those days are long gone now.

The Times has increasingly ruined its reputation by these various irresponsible practices. Critics have routinely exposed its "news stories." In the case of the McCain front-page story the paper’s own "public editor" has said it should not have run the McCain account.

One reason for the rise of the right-wing radio talk shows, and the various conservative newspapers and magazines, is that so many people no longer believe the mainstream media is genuinely fair. Indeed, the McCain story seemed to fire up the political right for McCain now that the Times has attacked him. Sadly, the days of serious news reporting are gone in many of our major daily papers. Header_cnn_com_logo
CNN was once seen as unfair (even being dubbed as the Clinton News Network by critics) and thus Fox News grew on its "fair and balanced" reporting image. Ironically Senator Clinton’s staff recently noted that Fox News has treated her more fairly than MSNBC, know as a more liberal news source. I have to say I do not trust any of them and thus watch very little of cable news.  I get far more on the Internet that is worth reading.

For me the best source for political news is Real Clear Politics. It is a non-partisan gathering site for all the media stories and columns that are worthy of your time. It acts as a credible "clearing house" in many cases.

The demise of once-serious publications is a reality that must be honestly faced. (Magazines like Newsweek, Time and U. S News, along with The Atlantic and The Week, are still generally worth my time.) This is another reason why bloggers play an important role since they can expose phony stories and show where the media gets it wrong. (They can, of course, create hoaxes as well, and do so routinely. Bloggers, remember, are accountable to no one 99.8% of the time. No editorial responsibility leads to fabulous and foolish stories.)

Do you remember Dan Rather’s famous phony memo about President Bush’s National Guard service? It could have impacted an election but a blogger revealed the truth. And when this happened there were still a large number of people who believed people like Dan Rather were objective. It was the bloggers and then the talk radio voices who shot that lie down.

Along with Thomas Sowell I doubt that this is the last of this stuff we will hear during an election year. Just this week we have a debate going on about the pictures of Obama in Muslim dress made in 2006 when he was in Africa. Who circulated these photos and why? And for what purpose? There can be little doubt in my mind that the pictures are meant to be worth a thousand words in trying to sully Obama. Obama_photo
The suggestion that Obama is a "closet Muslim" who will thus harm America will not go away so long as angry and gullible people wish to promote it and believe it. Did the Clinton campaign circulate these photos? They deny it. We may never know for sure, just like with the McCain story.

One thing is for sure–don’t believe most of what you read and even less of what you hear. Get other opinions, and then give people, even political candidates you do not like, the benefit of the doubt. we do have, as Christians, a "Golden Rule" you know.

This kind of stuff is part of the very reason why so many good people do not want to run for high office any more. This is so destructive in our present cultural context that in most cases you can only endure it if you believe you have a calling to pursue office. The old "muck raking" of the past is alive and well in America. Sadly, Christians are not immune to this. In fact, if you read a lot of blog spots and listen to a lot of highly regarded Christian sources, even in magazines and papers, you will hear such "muck" on a regular basis. I have been the recipient of some of it at times. (I have decided not to surf the net looking for stories about me. I think I am too weak to read the stuff and let it now bother me so I just try to ignore it.) My views are open to all and can be critiqued by all. What is frustrating is when the critique becomes personal and then takes nasty turns about my motives or reasons for some things I say or write.

This all prompts me to pray for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. I do not envy their lives right now. I pray that God will grant them peace, protect them from this muck-raking stuff and give their families a special grace during these times.

I stopped reading the once erudite and great New York Times  years ago, even though a few of their regular commentators are among my favorites. (The good stuff gets posted elsewhere so I can avoid the Times and still read Brooks, etc.)  I assure you that nothing has happened to make me want to go back to the Times this past week.  I can only hope a growing number of people will grow as disgusted as me and let the paper die the death it ought to die. One major paper had as its banner some years ago: "All the News That Is Fit to Print." What a great slogan. I wish more followed it.

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