Friday, October 26, 2007

NYT: Nepotism Is Wrong

Sometimes chronicling media bias and hypocrisy is just too easy. You couldn't have asked for better material than what was provided Wednesday by the New York Times which ran a thousand-word-plus article discussing the alleged nepotism of Commentary’s hiring of John Podhoretz to run the magazine. (Hat tip: Ace.)

I’ll grant that this type of character assassination article is typical when it comes to the liberal press’s normal gorillas-in-the-mist view of conservatism. Still, you’d think that the Times might be a little more inclined to avoid such journalism when its prestige and profits have been on a downward spiral ever since publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. was handed the reins to the New York Times in 1992 by his father.

That’s not the case, however. Instead, Times reporter Patricia Cohen finds a former Commentary writer who accuses the magazine of violating its foundational ethical principles. She finds others to grouse about the Podhoretz appointment, quotes author Adam Bellow speaking of “the new nepotism” and then ends—after a few pro forma quotes praising Podhoretz—with nary a mention of her boss.

And these are the same folks who accuse President Bush of being intellectually incurious? Surely, an article with the phrase “new nepotism” in it ought to have a mention of young Pinch. Sadly, no.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

To some within the neoconservative movement, the announcement of John Podhoretz as the next editor of Commentary magazine — the same job his father, Norman, held for 35 years — is the best of all possible choices. It is a model of what Adam Bellow (son of the Nobel-winning novelist Saul) called the “new nepotism,” combining the “privileges of birth with the iron rule of merit.”

But to others the decision reeks of the “old nepotism,” in which the only credential that matters is the identity of your father — in Mr. Bellow’s cosmology, less like the Roosevelts than like Tori Spelling getting an acting job because her father was Aaron Spelling.

“I think some people are pretty shocked,” said Jacob Heilbrunn, whose book “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons” is coming out in January. John Podhoretz, movie critic for The Weekly Standard magazine and a political columnist for The New York Post, “isn’t seen as a heavyweight intellectual,” said Mr. Heilbrunn, who has discussed the appointment with several neoconservatives. Rather, “he is seen as being a beneficiary of his parents’ fame in the George W. Bush mold.” [...]

As for charges of favoritism, Mr. Podhoretz said: “It’s silly for me to respond because I don’t accept the premise. I have a professional career that’s dated back 25 years. I’ve started two magazines, worked at three others. I am who I am. I have millions of words that you can read on Nexis.” He has also written three books.

Mr. Podhoretz’s supporters agree. “John happens to be in the family,” said Tamar Jacoby, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has written for Commentary, “but he is also more than qualified to carry the tradition forward. John is a serious person and takes ideas personally.”

Still, of the more than 30 people contacted for this article, several who have written for the magazine or have contributed money to the Commentary Fund said they were troubled by the family connection, the lack of an open search process and what they consider to be Mr. Podhoretz’s lack of intellectual credentials for such a highbrow journal, partly because he has written so much about popular culture. A former writer for Commentary said the appointment repudiated one of neoconservatism’s founding principles, a commitment to meritocracy.

The hypocrisy is almost palpable. Here we have a newspaper that is forever insisting that despite the fact that it’s run by a bunch of pampered Manhattanites and headed by the unqualified offspring of the former publisher, it really is a true advocate for the poor, the dispossessed and the little guy turning around and accusing another publication of violating its own principles.

You really have to wonder if the editors at the Times are even trying nowadays. An editor with even half a brain would’ve put the kibosh on this article the moment it crossed his desk.

The fact of the matter is that John Podhoretz is eminently qualified to edit Commentary. He has a long record as a political journalist and essayist. He helped start the Weekly Standard and turn it into a must-read in the political world. He’s written three books. That’s a lot more than you can say for Pinch Sulzberger who was appointed assistant publisher of the New York Times just 13 years out of college and publisher just 5 years later.