Public Editor Clark Hoyt Defends Richard Blumenthal Coverage in New York Times


Much of the journalism and political establishments have been waiting for New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt to rule on his paper’s actions in the coverage of Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, who certainly spoke a hell of a lot about Vietnam considering he never went. Whether Blumenthal lied about his service in speeches over the years is a more prickly issue — sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t — but in Sunday’s paper, Hoyt weighs in on the Times coverage. He’s as judicious as ever, and ultimately defends the paper’s work. Just as we suspected.

It was fairly clear at this point that Hoyt had enough evidence in support of the Times report to largely validate it, despite the gripes from all sides, while still acknowledging the minor missteps. And any time the Times can piss off Democrats, they’ll point it out, just to laugh at that “liberal bias.”

Hoyt, in his very first paragraph, basically chides the Dems for their weakness in the upcoming midterms: “Predictably, in an election year with control of Congress in play, the report sparked plenty of outrage — much of it directed at The Times.”

He also does well to summarize much of the controversy surrounding the piece:

A source in the article joined [Blumenthal] at the news conference to contradict what The Times quoted her as saying. Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the article a “hatchet job” planted by the opposition. Some Connecticut journalists who cover Blumenthal said they were never misled about his military service. And The Times was criticized for selectively editing the video, which was its strongest evidence.

Then, as Hoyt lists off reader complaints — his job as public editor — he counters every time with succinct points, almost always in favor of the paper. But by convincingly recognizing the minor quibbles, often journalism nerd shit like that the article “should have provided mitigating information far higher,” he makes his defense of the paper easier to swallow:

In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not.

Did people The Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did The Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that’s what counts.

Hoyt is like that frustrating friend of yours who can never just be wrong. And even when he’s the one making mistakes, he’s able to calmly address them: “You’re right. I shouldn’t have done it in that way exactly. Next time I will be more aware.” Whether he actually believes his own semi-confessions, or as you suspect, it’s just a way to placate you, doesn’t matter. He wins because he’s measured and you’re emotional. Appearing prudent, with a side of serene, works every time. And though it’s soothing you, on the other side of the argument, at least for a bit, eventually it’s even more aggravating.