Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Navasky/CJR update, part 2

In the September/October issue of Columbia Journalism Review, CJR chairman Victor Navasky writes a note (not available online) in response to two letters to the editor about the controversy surrounding his appointment (and lack of disclosure thereof) to a leadership position at CJR:
The chairman responds: Nathan Dodell raises an interesting question. Let me further complicate the matter. Long before I came to The Nation, I was founder, editor and publisher of Monocle, which described itself as "a leisurely quarterly of political satire" (that meant we came out twice a year). Our editorial policy was that "the views of our contributors, no matter how conflicting and contradictory, are the views of the editors." I might mention that after Monocle, I worked at The New York Times Magazine. And, oh yes, from age 8-11 I was a key staff writer for The ToHoNe Camper.
Amusing and charming, as is much of Navasky's writing. But not exactly relevant to the topic, is it? Navasky continues:
I will check previous letters-to-the-editors pages to see if Dodell or the Stern brothers sounded similar alarms when a CJR editor arrived fresh from overseeing Fortune and Money. I hope not, since the CJR over which he presided was a most distinguished journal.
Navasky apparently means to imply that Fortune and Money have overt political biases along the lines of The Nation's. Seemingly Navasky believes that any financial publication has got to have a rightward bent. (Indeed Navasky is too sophisticated to believe such nonsense, but perhaps he thinks his readers are not...)

An interesting if not entirely germane point: the former Fortune and Money editor is one Marshall Loeb, who might be surprised to learn of his alleged rightward bent. A review of Federal Election Commission records at tray.com suggests a slightly more leftward inclination: of $8600 in political contributions Loeb has made since 1980, 88% has gone to Democratic candidates, PACs or committees. I do not mean to suggest that Loeb is biased, only that Navasky is off-base to hold up Loeb as someone CJR's readers (and letter-writers) should presume has a rightward bias. More to the point, though, I am not aware that either Fortune or Money has a political bias--certainly not in the sense The Nation does.

And Navasky is an overt and avowed leftist, indeed an intellectual leader of the left. The magazine he led was an outspoken voice of the left. He's too smart to be making such fatuous comparisons. He continues:
Other CJR leaders have hailed from such diverse quarters as U.S. News & World Report, Ms. Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.
While critics have complained of bias in some if not all of these publications, none has an overt bias as a matter of policy. The Nation on the other hand does. Navasky concludes:
Can a magazine that prides itself on a long tradition of nonpartisan, impartial monitoring of the media survive its association with someone who hails from The Nation? Only time will tell.
Indeed, only time will tell. In the meantime, though, it would become CJR and Navasky to take the issue seriously rather than brushing it off and turning the story around to be about the critics who have raised the issue.

Would it not behoove CJR to take a look inward and examine the implications of:
  • A prominent voice of the left taking over a supposedly non-partisan impartial media monitor, and
  • Keeping that voice of the left off the masthead until a light is shined on the issue?

Note: This is the second of three planned posts on the current issue of CJR. The first post is "Quick Navasky/CJR update."