By MARC MCDONALD
The blogosphere is currently abuzz about the hiring of right-wing pundit William Kristol by The New York Times.
The progressive blogs are outraged that the Times has "lurched to the right." Meanwhile, the right-wing blogs are gleeful.
My own reaction (a feeling I suspect is shared by many progressives) is: Who cares?
Many of us gave up on The New York Times as a credible, trustworthy news source years ago. Many of us gave up on the paper even before the Times gave its blessing to the invasion of Iraq, after "journalist" Judith Miller pretended to investigate Bush's case for war. The Times' role in joining the rest of the MSM in cheerleading for the war was one of the most embarrassing episodes in U.S. journalism history.
Most wingnuts imagine that we progressives sit around all day sipping our latte and reading The New York Times. But this stereotype is outdated by at least 30 years. It's a stereotype at least as outdated as that of the GOP as being the "fiscally responsible" party.
The fact is, not only is the Times not as "liberal" as the wingnuts believe, but the Gray Lady's reputation has been coasting on its past glories now for decades.
Like a lot of progressives, I've been an enthusiastic newspaper reader over the years. At one time, I would have found it inconceivable to start my day without reading the Times along with my local newspaper.
But those pre-Internet days are long gone. The Times is no longer the beacon of top-notch journalism that it once was. In fact, American journalism in general has seen a steep decline in quality since the days of the Watergate era produced the hard-hitting investigative journalism that drew many of us into the field in the first place.
The reasons for the decline of U.S. journalism are many. But one reason I rarely see discussed is the increasingly shoddy way that newspapers have treated their employees in recent decades. As a former journalist, I saw first-hand just how crappy this treatment was. Journalists today have to contend with low wages, long hours and a crushing work-load.
When you have journalists making so little money that they spend half their time fretting about how to basic bills, you tend to create an environment that doesn't produce great journalism. Many journalists today are overworked, demoralized, bitter and burned out (and if the younger ones aren't, they will be, soon enough). Overall, the working conditions in America's newsrooms don't lend themselves to sort of great investigation journalism that our era is crying out for.
The New York Times arrogantly still regards itself as the nation's "newspaper of record."
But for many of us progressives, it lost that title years ago.
Indeed, if I were going to a desert island today and had to choose one newspaper, it definitely wouldn't be the Times. I'd probably select Britain's Guardian newspaper, or even The Financial Times.
Indeed, no less a commentator than Noam Chomsky has proclaimed The Financial Times as the best newspaper in the English-speaking world today.
Although it's hardly a liberal newspaper, The Financial Times offers many of the things that once appealed to us about The New York Times decades ago: intelligent, in-depth articles, extensive world-wide coverage, and a newspaper that puts substance over style.
Between The Guardian, The Financial Times and the progressive blogs, I have plenty of great reading material these days. Frankly, outside of columnists Paul Krugman and Frank Rich, I couldn't care less about The New York Times these days (and I suspect I'm not alone among progressives).