Sunday, March 29, 2009

NY Times Lets David Halbfinger Get Away With Scott Murphy Smear

Why is it that so many editors cannot do the jobs that they are hired for? Case in point is David Halbfinger's editor at the Times, who let the author pull a hit job on the surging Democratic challenger in the 20th District. Scott Murphy is a self-made man in the financial sector, but to tie him with the worst elements of the fiscal disaster we are in is extremely misleading. Yet with just a few days to go in this toss-up race, that is exactly what the "paper of record" in New York did.

From The Albany Project:

Yesterday, the New York Times had a story on the 20th congressional district race. The story was entitled, "Ire at Wall St. Bonuses Is Now Factor in House Race."

If you read the piece, which is a two-page story, you would get the feeling that the Times wasn't so high on Democratic candidate Scott Murphy. Even though the title of the article suggests something more broad (like voters being concerned about the bonuses AIG received) it is actually more specific than that. The target was Murphy and how his support of the stimulus package means that he supported the bonuses being handed out to AIG executives.

Recently, Irene Jay Liu of the Albany Times-Union termed this line of attack a "stretch." That's exactly what it is. The stimulus package covers a lot of ground and at $789 billion, there are a lot of things in there. Murphy might not support all of it, but he supports the goal: In order to stimulate the economy, we need to invest in our country.

However, one of the most prominent newspapers in the country didn't consider this a stretch. In fact, they essentially helped Tedisco further this talking point. There are a couple of things about this story that should bother the average reader and media critic alike:

- There isn't a single direct quote from Scott Murphy or his campaign and there are only a few select quotes from the debate on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Tedisco has at least two long quotes in the piece from the debate on Tuesday.

- The author of the piece, David Halbfinger, wrote the piece asserting that the AIG bonus issue is the major story in the race's final days leading up to Tuesday's special election. While AIG bonuses might be something on everyone's mind (they have certainly upset us all), to try and say that Murphy's support of the stimulus package means he supports the AIG bonuses is absurd. As others have said in recent days, it is a stretch.

- There is only one passing mention (that you could easily miss if you read the article fast enough) to Tedisco's refusal to take a position on the stimulus package. That is not a stretch, yet the article seems to downplay its significance.

- And here's the important one: There is not one mention of Tedisco's financial disclosure, which includes AIG under the "assets and unearned income" section. That asset is worth between $1 and $15,000, but apparently it wasn't worth inserting into a story about, well, AIG and its impact on the 20th district race.

I apologize for quoting so much from Robert Harding at TAP, but he covers this episode of journalistic misconduct perfectly. Calling out the NY Times for this is important and the more so, the better. With less than 55 hours to go in the race, time is at a minimum and voters should be informed by newspapers with the facts, not a pro-Tedisco/anti-Murphy bias. As Robert said in his post, and I'll say in my affirmation of it, that the progressive blogs can tout Murphy and point out the failings of Tedisco in any way we want (as long as it is truthful of course). The Times though is and should be held to a different standard....they should try living up to it.