NYT editor: newspaper nearly 'cheerleader' for 'gay marriage'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Is The New York Times a liberal newspaper, a publication slanted in its coverage of such issues as abortion and same-sex "marriage"?

The newspaper's public editor believes it is.

Daniel Okrent, whose columns appear in The Times twice a month, wrote an opinion piece recently in which he said, among other things, that:

-- The Times' coverage of the homosexual rights movement "approaches cheerleading."

-- the newspaper's editors "have failed to provide ... balanced journalism" on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

-- The Times has failed in its effort to become a national newspaper and has remained a liberal-minded, metropolitan-focused publication.

Okrent's column, which ran in late July, was an affirmation of sorts for many conservatives -- and some liberals -- who have charged for years that The Times is biased.

William Proctor, whose book "The Gospel According to The New York Times" critiqued what he saw as the newspaper's slanted coverage, praised Okrent's column. Proctor's book was published in 2000 by Broadman & Holman.

"I'm gratified that The New York Times has finally publicly confessed to many of the points I made about the paper's left-wing bias in my book," Proctor told Baptist Press. "... I could hardly have asked for a better way to make my case than Okrent's public confession in the very pages of the paper."

Okrent was hired late last year to write at least two columns a month critiquing and evaluating The Times' reporting. As the public editor, he is responsible for representing the reader. Okrent's role ends in May 2005, when presumably another public editor will take his place.

While Okrent has written more than 20 columns since being hired, his column examining the newspaper's liberalism likely has received the most attention.

In it he said the editorial page is "thoroughly saturated in liberal theology." He joked that those who think the newspaper "plays it down the middle" on the issues of homosexual rights, abortion, gun control and environmentalism have "been reading the paper with your eyes closed."

While editorials are expected to be slanted, Okrent said, news stories should be evenhanded. However, he asserts, they aren't. The issue of same-sex "marriage," Okrent says, is a "perfect example."

"[F]or those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it's disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading," he writes.

"So far this year, front-page headlines have told me that 'For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy,' (March 19, 2004); that the family of 'Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home,' (Jan. 12, 2004) is a new archetype; and that 'Gay Couples Seek Unions in God's Eyes,' (Jan. 30, 2004). I've learned where gay couples go to celebrate their marriages; I've met gay couples picking out bridal dresses; I've been introduced to couples who have been together for decades and have now sanctified their vows in Canada, couples who have successfully integrated the world of competitive ballroom dancing, couples whose lives are the platonic model of suburban stability."

The aforementioned news stories, Okrent said, "would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause."

"You wouldn't even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you'd have the makings of a life insurance commercial," he writes.

Okrent says he is a registered Democrat who sides with homosexual activists and the pro-choice movement.

The San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe have run stories examining both sides of the same-sex "marriage," debate, while the Times has run few, Okrent says.

"[I]n The Times, I have learned next to nothing about these issues, nor about partner abuse in the gay community, about any social difficulties that might be encountered by children of gay couples or about divorce rates (or causes, or consequences) among the 7,000 couples legally joined in Vermont since civil union was established there four years ago," he writes. "On a topic that has produced one of the defining debates of our time, Times editors have failed to provide the three-dimensional perspective balanced journalism requires."

The New York Times' publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., rejects the liberal label and prefers to call the newspaper's point of view "urban," Okrent notes.

"The Times has chosen to be an unashamed product of the city whose name it bears, a condition magnified by the been-there-done-that irony afflicting too many journalists," Okrent writes.

The Times' editorial page has been a vocal supporter of same-sex "marriage" legalization. When the California Supreme Court invalidated San Francisco's same-sex "marriages" Aug. 12, The Times followed with an editorial calling the ruling a "bump on the way to progress."

"Just as California was the first state to strike down its own laws against interracial marriage, we expect that it will ultimately find a constitutional basis for the human right to same-sex marriage," the editorial stated.

Proctor, in his comments to Baptist Press, noted that The Times’ “conscious or unconscious promotion of such positions has resulted in a phenomenon I call ‘Culture Creep’ -- or the process of spreading the paper’s ‘gospel’ or comprehensive worldview to an unsuspecting public.”

The Times, Proctor said, “has taken many liberal issues to the extreme left edge of rationality. One case I often refer to is a Times editorial entitled ‘Transgender Rights,’ published on August 29, 2000, which called for full legal rights for ‘people who have had sex-change surgery, cross-dressers, and others whose gender identity does not conform to society norms,’” Proctor recounted. “Presumably such a measure would give cross-dressers and other ‘transgender’ people full minority status, including the right to be employed as elementary school teachers.”


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