The New York Times is still mocked in media bias circles for a notorious headline from 1997 lamenting tougher sentencing guidelines. The article's now-notorious headline: "Crime Rates are Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.” But the paper's hand-wringing liberal confusion over the apparent paradox has a straightforward explanation: Crime was down at least partially because more criminals were locked in prison. The same misguided lament still flickers in occasional headlines, a subliminal ghost, as different liberal editorial writers and reporters rediscover the same seemingly horrifying statistic. The latest entry came on Friday: “Crime is Down. U.S. Incarceration Rates? Barely.”
James Taranto's Opinion Journal page features a long-running gag, "Fox Butterfield, Is That You?" an homage to former New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, who wrote an article under a now-notorious headline: "Crime Rates are Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling." Yet the paper's liberal confusion had a straightforward explanation: Crime was down at least partially because more criminals were locked in prison. Now Taranto has struck again.
A Sunday New York Times editorial on crime, “Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons,” indirectly acknowledged (at last) the paper’s blinkered liberal failure to connect the seemingly obvious idea that crime falls when more criminals are behind bars, as captured by a notorious headline on a September 28, 1997 "Week in Review" story by Fox Butterfield, "Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling." As if the two trends were unrelated.
The idea is a recidivist in Times crime coverage, often under Butterfield’s byline.