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The NY Times had every right to publish the Petraeus ad, and we have every right not to take them seriously 9/24/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes.
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Now that it’s clear that the NY Times violated its own policies by giving MoveOn.org an inappropriate discount for an ad that included an inappropriate personal attack, the question must be asked, “So what?” The NY Times competes in the private sector, it has the right to both set and violate its own policies, and its editors have the same rights to freedom of speech and the press as any of us. So, if they can charge whatever they want and print whatever they want, why is everyone, including the Times, acting like someone did something wrong?

In fact, the only party that has been wronged is the long-suffering Times’ stockholder (shares down 60% vs. 5 years ago), whose company’s management has strangely encouraged us to think of their paper as a “newspaper of record,” as if it were a non-partisan branch of the government. But the Times cannot live-up to this false expectation — it is a for-profit business, objectivity is not an achievable goal, and the paper has been neither willing nor able to meet its self-professed standards, the Petraeus ad being just the latest example. Is setting readers’ expectations then failing to meet them, thereby disappointing and angering many on a regular basis, really a good business strategy? Ultimately, disgruntled readers will stop taking the Times seriously, which is when shareholders may finally take this issue seriously.

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