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The Sunday New York Times

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The Sunday New York Times

The New York Times believes that it is the champion for the middle class and the poor in America. The editorial board, as well as several of the newspaper’s major writers, have been critical of the increasing income and wealth inequalities in the country. Generally they have argued against the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

A glance at the Sunday NY Times reveals ads that cannot possibly be directed at those Americans for whom the paper supposedly fights. Rather, they appeal to the rich. On pages two and three of the first section of the paper, one finds ads for Tiffany (yellow diamonds), Wempe (Zetimaster Aviator watch for $3,200), Barney’s (Belvedere Messenger Bag for $1,680), Gucci, Rolex (no price listed, but if you need to ask, obviously you cannot afford it), Chanel (diamond and gold pendant for $9,750), and Audemars Piguet.

The Travel section focuses on the “41 Places to go in 2011”. I doubt that Middle America can afford any of them (e.g. Santiago, Chile; Kom Samui, Thailand; Milan; Park City, Utah; Melbourne; Hyderbad, India; Whistler; and Singapore).

The NY Times also has argued that Americans should become spendthrifts – imitating the Asians, building up their savings and foregoing consumerism. Yet the ads directed more at the typical middle class Americans scream out to spend, spend, spend!

I fully understand that newspapers are driven by the need to attract eyeballs and thus advertisers. Without advertising, newspapers, in fact all media, die. However, there appears to be a certain degree of hypocrisy on the part of the NY Times. There is a disconnect between the ads and the editorials on economic issues.

But maybe it is not hypocrisy. The NY Times actually might be catering to the “elite” who influence policy making in Washington and who can afford the products and services advertised in the newspaper. Unfortunately, this smacks of paternalism. The middle class and definitely the poor are too simple to understand the complexities of policy making. Only a small group of people in the Northeast are smart enough.

A second possibility is that the NY Times needs to compromise in order to survive so that it can be an effective voice in policy debates. There is nothing wrong with compromise. This is the essence of civil politics and policy making. Compromise weeds out extreme views. Probably the majority of Americans, regardless of whether they label themselves as Democrats, Republicans or Independents, agree on most issues, at least when the issues and the options are clearly presented.

I always advise senior management of companies to make it a policy that they all should spend six weeks or more each year out in the field with their employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. I would advise all media to do the same.

Do the members of the NY Times editorial board and the senior writers leave the comfortable confines of Manhattan, or business class cabins and five star hotels when they travel? Do any spend real time with Middle America or in the “hoods” outside of the Northeast? I cannot recall Maureen Dowd touring with Nascar, spending time with people other than the owners or the drivers.

Maybe if they did, their positions might change, or they might be able to contribute to a more intelligent discussion of issues and trade-offs. There rarely is a simple answer in any policy issue.

I do not mean to be critical of just one newspaper. All media can be and should be subject to the same criticisms.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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1 Comment

  1. J P Bertrand January 18, 2011

    Obviously, at first glance, it does appear slightly hypocritical to announce that you are championing the middle class and the poor while showing them the type of products they might never be able to afford. Still, I have a feeling that America is the type of place where the poor and ,perhaps, mostly the middle class look at what the rich have and think to themselves, “ I shall also have what they have some day.” This is not always envy but hope. Wouldn’t it be paternalistic to tell them that they might never make it?
    In addressing the reasonable demand for a fairer distribution of the national cake a one ought to provide some form of schizophrenic speech. The wealthier should be told the current disparity is unsustainable: that at a macro level a viable consumption depends on a fairer distribution, that is might eventually lead to civil unrest, that it is simply morally wrong… Yet, the poor and middle class ought to hear a different story. They should not be encouraged to sit on their hands and. They ought to be encouraged to have hope, encouraged to do their very best while accepting the cards that they have been dealt. Only such double standard stands a chance to achieving something.
    Undoubtedly, the task of in front of capitalistic society is quite daunting. It will always require richer members who can and will undertake production focussing on their personal gains; while later requiring those same members to use some of their selfishly earned profit for benevolent purposes. It also requires the poor to have hope.
    Such is the challenging test to Capitalism; one that calls for the contribution of good newspaper. Perhaps, we should be glad that people who can afford Rolexes can read about views promoting the middle class and the poor. Or, even, that the poor and middle class can see the type of wealth that their country can offer. I will contend that a newspaper should primarily be judged by its written content.

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