Friday, April 18, 2008

Dear Mr. Hoyt. . .

Mr. Clark Hoyt
Public Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

It has now been nine days since reporters at ABC News told us of “dozens of top-secret talks and meetings” held in the White House by senior Bush Administration officials to discuss in fine detail the interrogation techniques to be used on so-called “high value al Qaeda suspects,” and it has been one week since ABC told us that President Bush knew about these meetings and approved of the result—namely, the torture of certain detainees by CIA interrogators.

I make note of this timeline because, as of this writing, I am still waiting for the New York Times to report on these revelations.

At first I thought I had just missed the story. Surely the paper of record finds it newsworthy that the Vice President of the United States, The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the National Security Advisor (who is now, herself, Secretary of State) all gathered in the people’s house and there agreed to violate domestic law and international treaties—not to mention some of the principles most Americans consider central to what we are as a nation. Surely the Times thinks it noteworthy that a President that has repeatedly told your reporters and the American people that “we don’t torture” has now cavalierly admitted that we do, and did even while he claimed the contrary. Surely your paper, which only days earlier had reported on how one Justice Department Attorney had drafted a memo theoretically legitimizing torture for his bosses, came to realize with the reporting by ABC that the very highest ranking officials of the executive branch approved of torture and designed methods even before they obtained their legal “cover.”

Surely the New York Times could not have decided that none of this was worthy of some independent reporting or at least some prime space on their news pages.

At least that is what I thought.

But after a week of watchful waiting, it seems, I surely thought wrong.

A Times search of the terms “George Bush,” “George W. Bush,” and/or “President Bush” narrowed by “torture” turns up no entries after your April 2 news piece and April 4 editorial on the Yoo memorandum. Broadening the search to “Bush” and “interrogation” only adds an AP wire story about a DoJ probe of whether the advice in the March 2003 memo was even legal.

Honestly, this makes absolutely no sense to me. I cannot think of any rationale that would explain why the Times has chosen to ignore a story about a sitting President and his top officials discussing, designing, and approving methods by which to torture other human beings—no matter whether they are “high value suspects” or some other type of captive—especially when you have President Bush confirming on the record that these torture meetings took place. That is why I am now writing to you.

I would greatly appreciate an explanation from your point of view, and, of course, from the viewpoint of the editors in charge of delineating what are, to my mind, such skewed priorities.

I appreciate your attention, and look forward to your response.


New York City

This is the letter I sent this morning to New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt. While others have rightfully advocated for letters to the editor in order to protest what is a shameful silence by the establishment media in light of such grave revelations, I decided that it might also do us well to contact public editors, ombudsmen, and the like, since they are supposed to be our most direct link when we have questions about or problems with the choices made by the news organizations. They are also often tasked with investigating the errors and oversights of the reporters and editors.

I encourage all reading this to send their own questions to Clark Hoyt, and to similarly tasked people at other newspapers and television news divisions. If you have—and if you have had any response—please let me know in the comments section.


(cross-posted on guy2k, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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