NYT's Zeleny Again Involved in Obama Story Scrub

October 31st, 2009 1:50 AM

Bloggers and their readers have "joked" about the New York Times being the official house organ of the Obama White House. Maybe it's not a joke.

Earlier this month (as seen at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), several bloggers caught the Times making significant changes to its initial coverage of Chicago's humiliating loss of its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and of President Obama's involvement in that loss. The first Times report by Peter Baker was fairly harsh, questioning the President's judgment in getting involved, while citing his slipping poll ratings.

After Times organ grinder -- er, reporter -- Jeff Zeleny got a hold of the story, most of the harshness went away, as did Baker's original story. All of a sudden, at the same URL, there was no reference to tarnished presidential prestige. A dismissive assertion that the embarrassment "would fade in a news cycle or two" appeared. There was also a mention of Obama's 25-minute meeting with Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal that was not in the original. The reference to falling poll numbers also disappeared.

Well, the Times has just pulled a similar stunt in its coverage of President Obama's Wednesday night/Thursday morning visit to Dover Air Force Base. Once again, Jeff Zeleny is involved. Here's a screen grab from Ed Morrissey's 10:12 a.m. yesterday post that described the details (top portion of NYT's search result page originally shown at Hot Air was omitted to conserve space; the Times's revisions were originally noticed by Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette and NiceDeb at her place):


Actually, Morrissey caught the Times in mid-scrub. A search on the same words (in quotes, to filter out articles containing some of the words) now comes up empty. How convenient.

For those who think the title of Morrissey's post is unfair, I would suggest that the more important matters to pursue are, first, why the Times seems to be making a habit of scrubbing instead of preserving original on-the-scene reports, and second, why it appears to feel compelled to clean them up, almost invariably to make Obama and his administration look better.

In a real sense, it matters little whether the ultimate cause of these memory-hole treatments is actual White House pressure, a perceived need to stay on the administration's good side to retain access, or simply a bunch of apparatchiks like Jeff Zeleny voluntarily carrying out what they think is their duty to present Dear Leader in the best possible light. The result is the same: slanted, biased, prettified pseudo-journalism.

If the Times is concerned about why its daily circulation is over 7% below that of a year ago and has dropped to 923,000 from 1.038 million just two years ago, it could start by asking itself how throwing away first drafts of history can possibly be considered legitimate.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.