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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 January 2010
The New York Times has a reputation in the US for high quality reporting. A recent survey indicated that 40% of people surveyed believed the NYT had a liberal bias. The paper's motto is "all the news that's fit to print". This book is a rebuttal of these views. It is important to note that NYT editorial content is carried by local/regional newspapers across the US and therefore reaches millions of people for whom this is probably their only source of foreign affairs reporting.

The authors review NYT reporting over a period of 50 years but by specific events: Iraq, the short-lived overthrow of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Nicaragua & Vietnam. Too often the NYT is seen to more or less re-state the US government view and at times, to me, the standard of reporting and the lack of proper investigation or of even basic, healthy scepticism is frankly shameful. I was staggered to learn that in the course of seventy editorials on the subject of Iraq between September 2001 and March 2003, there was no mention of international law or the UN Charter. With regard to Venezuela, the NYT referred to the removal of Chavez, a democratically elected leader, by a short-lived coup, stating ".... Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator...", without a hint of irony. Worse still, in relation to Iraq, one experienced, Pulitzer-prize winning NYT journalist seems to have been wholly dependent on information from Ahmed Chalabi, a dissident Iraqi, but there doesn't seem to have been any thought that he might not be a reliable source.

There is a particularly good section dealing with Nicaragua, especially in relation to the case against the US lodged in the International Court of Justice. The NYT reported that the court was "hostile forum" which issued "hostile judgments" against the US. The forensic analysis of the actual court decision gives the lie to this.

Although I suspect that the book will carry a much greater punch in the USA than it does in the UK, it demonstrates very clearly the dangers of an unquestioning press. Perhaps the newspaper also reflects a kind of American nationalism, whereby many Americans seem unable to accept that their government ever acts other than in pursuit of good or in an honourable cause. This might explain why the NYT does not appear to have changed its approach over such a long period. Ultimately such attitudes have serious consequences: to quote the authors, "The New York Times did the people of the United States no favor by ignoring international law in its coverage of the US invasion of Iraq. From a national-interest perspective, ignoring international law on the conduct of US foreign policy in our view undermines the national security of the United States."
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