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Daniel Okrent, the former public editor of the New York Times, recently made some interesting comments on his old employer and the media in general. Some highlights:
[T]here is a shortage of conservatives working in the news media — or, I should say, an imbalance between liberals and conservatives. The last survey I saw was on the ‘04 election - I don’t know what it was in ‘08 - but in ‘04 something like 75 percent of working journalists at daily newspapers voted for the Democrat. I mean, you can’t deny this. It’s a reality.
When I was at the Times - my term there ended four years ago - everybody on the editorial board was a Democrat. I asked Gail Collins, who was then the editorial page editor, “Why don’t you have a greater ideological variety and philosophical variety so you can have richer debate on the page?” And she said, “If I had a couple of conservatives on this page, they’d be unhappy all the time. They’d either have to write something that wasn’t their view, because we decide our view consensually, or they’d never get to write. So, what’s the point?” Now, Gail knows a lot better than I the dynamics of coming to an editorial position, but it would seem to me that, if for no other reason than to challenge the conventional thinking that may - and I stress the may - dominate the conversation on the editorial board, it’d be nice to have somebody else there who might say, “Well, here’s another point of view.”
If it’s to survive and flourish, the Times has to be an honest broker, and the perception left by that op-ed page and the adjoining editorial page is that it’s not.
When I was at the paper I criticized it pretty strongly for not having ideological diversity or religious diversity on the staff. The same reason we would want racial diversity, to provide different perspectives on the world, would suggest that we want the same thing religiously and ideologically and philosophically. And I was very roundly criticized by some people on the left about that, people who thought it was an outrage that I was suggesting that the Times hire more conservatives. Why is that an outrage? Why is it an outrage to get a more varied view of the world? We want a varied view if we’re going to be good citizens, if we’re going to have a functioning democracy. We must have a varied view.