Jay Rosen Throws It Down

Jay Rosen has had an epiphany: the New York Times is no longer number one. Behold:

Just one man’s opinion, but now is a good time to say it: The New York Times is not any longer–in my mind–the greatest newspaper in the land. Nor is it the base line for the public narrative that it once was. Some time in the least year or so I moved the Washington Post into that position… The Post, I believe, is our great national newspaper now; the Times is number two, with the Wall Street Journal close behind.

Rosen goes on to explain the downgrade, Standard & Poor style, and he ticks off all the things that have contributed to the erosion of the Times pride of place (and the Post‘s ascent): timidity on the web, TimesSelect, the questionable events surrounding the WMD reportage, the Jayson Blair scandal, Wen Ho Lee, “Paul Krugman’s correction trauma.” I’d venture to add that things like the Stanley/Rivera NudgeGate and personal-bee-in-my-bonnet Louise Story article have contributed as well, not so much in the events themselves but the way they were handled, i.e. both failing to acknowledge fair criticism and a general lack of humility, of which the Times is often accused.

Of course, the capstone is the Judith Miller PlameGate debacle, and as Rosen has said before, it is she who is captaining the coverage, not the NYT:

Clicking on to Seelye’s article last night, I realized that I didn’t expect the Times to try to tell me what it knew. I expected what I said Sunday: it’s Judy Miller’s New York Times. She does with it as she pleases… Bill Keller could have ordered [Judy’s full explanatory article]. But Judy does as she pleases.

He cites CJR’s Steve Lovelady comparing the Miller version to something from Pravda (and also requiring the skills of a Kremlinologist to crack!) and notes that the NYT is in the dark on Judy’s book deal while the scoop goes to Arianna and is picked up willynilly.

Upshot: The Times has abdicated its role as tough terrier of reporting and Chaser of Truth, effectively “going into editorial default,” forcing its staffers to toe the line or at least to miss out on stories that should rightfully be theres (see Bureau, Washinton). Jay is saddened by this but hope the Times of yore will be back.

As for Judy, he’ll keep on watching, reading, and wondering, just like the rest of us.