The Editors Blog


I’ve been following the news that the New York Times‘ John McCain’s Op-Ed on the grounds that it did not announce anything new and merely served as a refutation of Barack Obama’s recent Op-Ed that ran in the same paper. Of course, this is fertile ground for conservative critics to allege liberal bias to the NYT’s - a point the paper poorly tries to deflect by reminding the McCain camp that the paper endorsed McCain in the Republican primary. What has been heartening is that editors of all stripes have appeared on talk shows to support the Times‘ decision based on editorial control. Presidential candidates - no matter how important - do not get jurisdiction over the decisions of the working press. The New York Post found the news value in the Op-Ed (perhaps more so in the controversy, then in the Op-Ed) and decided to run it. So it ran. Ask any thought leader about their experiences, and you’ll often find it takes a couple of tries to find a taker.

McCain has no shortage of opportunities to espouse his points. The Times owns its own real estate. Editors everywhere should applaud the Times for maintaining its standards, even though it’s liable to draw plenty of criticism. Here’s, I think, the salient point:

In an e-mail to the campaign on Friday, David Shipley, an op-ed editor at the newspaper, said he could not accept the piece in its current form, but would look at another version. In the e-mail, released by McCain’s campaign, Shipley wrote that McCain’s article would “have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.”

We get plenty of Op-Ed submissions that don’t conform to our editorial standards (too self-promotional, poorly written, written in the form of a Q&A, etc). And we find nearly all are happy to work with us on getting the copy to the best place. Of course, those scenarios don’t often lead to the opportunity to throw red meat to the base.

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