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By Geoff Metcalf
June 9, 2003
The recent purging of editorial management at the New York Times is a good thing…albeit it late in coming. Howell Raines was both the symbol and the cause of the systemic cancer that was allowed to metastasize during his reign.
The once great New York Times is wounded but not necessarily fatally. The seminal problems are not a function of the demonstrated liberal bias but rather the result of bad management. Jayson Blair, the young black creative writer, was a symptom of what plagued the Times and not the cause.
I am writing this from Reno, Nevada where I am attending (as a guest and speaker) the annual meeting of the 173d Airborne Brigade. I have met some extraordinary men and heard some extraordinary stories. I many ways this time has served to crystallize the essence of leadership and management style. And it offers a significant contrast to what went wrong at 'The New York Times'.
Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson was the first Commander of the 173rd. He built the Brigade through excellent leadership, and established the Brigade as an aggressive and unique unit. In May 1965, the Brigade became the first US Army combat unit sent to the Republic of South Vietnam.
I met Colonel Richard Boland who at 80-something was celebrating his 59th anniversary of having parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. The love and affection his men demonstrated was palpable…and something I doubt any civilian could understand. Colonel Boland was and is a leader. Despite his age he still runs every day and standing in front of him you can feel the 'command presence'.
During the Iron Triangle battles in the Tay Ninh Province, the 173d made the first and only parachute assault of the war. In the summer and fall of 1967, some of the bloodiest fighting of the war erupted at Dak To, culminating with the capture of Hill 875. The 'Sky Soldiers' lost nearly 300 men and had over 675 wounded.
Although it has been 36 years since most of these men had made that historic combat jump there is no question they would enthusiastically follow 'The Herd' into battle even if they had to limp and waddle.
It strikes me that the antithesis of the love, respect and dedication of 'The Herd' was the petty, mean-spirited autocracy of the New York Times newsroom. The infusion of political correctness, cronyism, and 'the Raines way or the highway' fueled an atmosphere of "us against them". The Raines management team was the 'them'. The 'us' hated the 'them' that was supposed to lead.
When Raines spoke to his troops in an effort to pre-empt the inevitable he said, "You view me as inaccessible and arrogant," he told his staff. "I heard that you were convinced there's a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation. Fear is a problem to such extent, I was told, that editors are scared to bring me bad news." Raines was floating down the river "denial" and apparently diffident to accept facts, which contradicted his personal views, opinions, and hubris.
Jan. 5, 1998 I wrote, "Whatever happened to morality, ethics, honor?" I started the piece by noting, "Synonyms for 'honest' are ethical, honorable, moral, trustworthy, upright and virtuous." I used that as a foundation to criticize the Clinton administration, but it is equally applicable in discussing the mainstream media.
British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard waxed poetic and remarkably insightful when he wrote, "The American elite, I am afraid to say, is almost beyond redemption. Moral relativism has set in so deeply that the gilded classes have become incapable of discerning right from wrong. Everything can be explained away, especially by journalists. Life is one great moral mush - sophistry washed down with Chardonnay." Hooray and Bingo!
Aubrey T. DeVera's once observed, "Prejudice, which sees what it pleases, cannot see what is plain." Notwithstanding the obvious liberal bias of the mainstream media, many of us continue to wonder at what point will either embarrassment or territorial imperative compel the dominant media to return to the journalistic foundation of actually reporting Who, What, When and Where, rather than obfuscating the Why and the How, and/or committing mortal sins of omission.
The New York Times hopefully is going through that process now. They might be well served to contact 173rd Airborne Brigade and ask to talk to Colonel Boland.
© 2003 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved
"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. . Visit Geoff's Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"It strikes me that the antithesis of the love, respect and dedication of 'The Herd' was the petty, mean-spirited autocracy of the New York Times newsroom."