Monday, June 23, 2008

Maureen Dowd rebuked by NY Times public editor

The New York Times' Public Editor took a strong position on Sunday, on the issue of Maureen Dowd's pummelling of Hillary Clinton in column after column throughout the primary season. It's making the rounds on the Reddit list tonight and it's an interesting read. Seems the Times has, unsurprisingly, had a number of complaints. The public editor's conclusion? Yes, Dowd went over the top with her attack. And I'd have to say, as a fan of Ms. Dowd more often than not, I agree. Excerpts from the remarkable public rebuke:
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective. (emphasis added)
The editorial page position defends its columnist:
Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page, said it was unfair to hold a columnist accountable for perceptions of bias in news coverage. A columnist is supposed to present strong opinions, he said, and “a thorough reading of Maureen’s work shows that she does that without regard to gender, partisanship or ideology.”
Yet the public editor's conclusion:
Aulisio, the reader who wanted a review of Times coverage, asked if a man could have gotten away with writing what Dowd wrote. Rosenthal said that if the man had written everything Dowd had written over the years and established himself as a sardonic commentator on the sexes, “I’d say the answer is yes.”

Of course, there is no such man, and I do not think another one could have used Dowd’s language. Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season. (emphasis added)
Oh well. Nothing to be done about it now.