Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Finally -- NYT editorial distortion laid bare!

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 22, 2006

The New York Times is biased on the abortion front.

OK, you already knew that. What you probably didn't know is that the Times' op-eds are biased against the pro-abortion position. If that sounds unlikely, Garance Franke-Ruta of The American Prospect will put you right. Ms. Franke-Ruta has spent considerable time juggling the Lexis data and is frankly horrified by the results. Over the past two years, she says

not one op-ed discussing abortion on the op-ed page of the most powerful liberal paper in the nation was written by a reproductive-rights advocate, a pro-choice service-provider, or a representative of a women's group.

Hold that gasp. Franke-Ruta is just warming up. Read on:

While the unsigned Times editorials have remained resolutely pro-choice, their influence has sagged under the heavy load of conservative jurists, conflicted Catholics, and emotionally distraught men readers find on the op-ed page when they turn to the Times for thinking about abortion. This suggests either that the op-ed page now favors a much more doubt-ridden, hand-wringing stance than it has historically -- or else that the Times, in attempting to balance its own editorial stance, has unwittingly engaged in one of the most egregious cases of liberal overcompensation in recent media history.

I have to admit the hand-wringing and over-compensation escaped my notice. Perhaps I failed to do the requisite chromosome count.

Indeed, what's most striking about today's op-ed page is the absence of women of any sort writing on the subject of abortion. Of the 124 mentions of abortion on the page over the two-year period, only 21 of those instances were female authored. In total, there were 67 authors who wrote about abortion for the Times -- only seven of which were female. (Many authors wrote multiple columns mentioning the topic.) That's seven women over two years, compared with 60 men.

The Times' two Catholic girls are singled out for special mention:

Nor can the absence of women be entirely explained by the 1994 retirement of columnist Anna Quindlen, who wrote primarily about the politics of family life, and her replacement by columnist Maureen Dowd in 1995. Quindlen, to be sure, wrote many reported, thoughtful columns concerned from lede to kicker with the complexities of abortion while Dowd usually just mentions abortion in passing during columns devoted to political personalities or electoral questions; Quindlen wrote on abortion 81 times during her four-year tenure as an editorial columnist, while Dowd has touched on the subject 44 times over 10 years. Nonetheless, restricting the analysis only to op-ed page contributors with no Times affiliation, the percent of pieces discussing abortion written by women plummeted from 30 percent in 1991-1992 to only 7 percent by 2004-2006. In fact, Dowd's passing references artificially skew the number of women writing on abortion upwards.

Dowd artificially skews the pro-abort curve? Let's break this in mid-paragraph to let Franke-Ruta catch her breath. OK, here's the shocker:

Far from being an advocate for reproductive rights, [Dowd] is a former political reporter who still primarily focuses on presidential politics. She has never, over the course of a decade on the op-ed page, devoted a full column to an actual, substantive argument in favor of abortion rights.

Garance, I gather, is on a mission from Moloch. For another view of the Times' unacknowledged commitments, take a look at Ken Woodward's article here.

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