The penchant of America's greatest newspaper for self-flaggelation is no longer a harmless peccadillo; it's positively self-destructive. Vanity Fair's Bruce Feirstein accidentally stumbled upon a New York Times reader response survey they've been asking web users to take. Usually these things are done for advertisers, to gauge demographics in order to target readers more effectively. This one, though, is a bizarre paranoid list of every scandal, minor and major, the Times has been involved in over the last decade, followed by worried queries as to how much each one upset you, the reader. The questions are embarrassing—"What is the main reason your opinion of the New York Times has gotten worse?"—and specific—"The New York Times' Judith Miller reported about the probable existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those stories turned out to be wrong. Has this made you feel better about The Times, has it not affected your opinion of The Times, or haven't you heard enough about these stories to say?" That's the most direct admission of error the Times has yet made on the subject, right? More of these terrible survey questions below.
We don't know who's responsible for this. As Feirstein notes, if this is the publisher's doing, it's got to be pretty damn galling for everyone in editorial. It's all part of the constantly apologetic and self-flagellating Pinch Sulzberger Times. Let's all mention the moose, as often as possible, in public!
Considering that it is still the biggest and most influential newspaper in this nation, it'd be nice of the Times dropped the mealy-mouthed liberal defensiveness and just adopted the Fox house style of unapologetic halls-out can-do-no-wrong confidence. Man up, Times! No one cares about Judy Miller besides angry bloggers.