Not wanting to believe the results

Press Criticism | By Craig Gurian |

It’s astonishing, really. Give plenty of room for horse-race and strategy stories. But nothing on how Chris Quinn ran the City Council?  It would be bizarre enough in any circumstance, but two of the major issues in the 2013 campaign — stop-and-frisk and unpaid leave — illustrated a broader pattern of not only aligning herself with business interests and Mayor Bloomberg but also of an unwillingness to allow the voice of a majority of City Council members to be heard.


Embedded assumptions

My own view is that this is a classic case of a newsroom caught within its own assumptions.  Everyone “knew” that Chris Quinn squashed legislation, but it wasn’t “newsworthy” because, deep down, the reporters shared the Bloomberg view that legislative authority was too important to trust to rank-and-file legislators.

It wouldn’t be the only occasion where the reporter’s assumptions shaped campaign coverage. In a piece on how de Blasio was taking on income inequity in the City, Michael Barbaro saw the candidate’s approach as the “season’s riskiest calculation” in a city where residents have become “comfortably accustomed” (assumption, no evidence) to the “smooth-running” (assumption, no evidence), “highly efficient apparatus of government under Michael R. Bloomberg” (assumption, no evidence).

Of course, the New Yorkers imagined in the piece may have been from similar socioeconomic precincts as the New Yorkers with whom Taylor opened her piece: “two dozen accomplished women — bankers, law firm partners and technology executives,” including “Mary Ann Tighe, the real-estate executive, and Diana L. Taylor, girlfriend of the current mayor.”

Residents of New York more broadly understood, the primary showed, were not living in the city in which Barbaro was living.


What comes next?

The general election is in six weeks. Joseph Lhota, the Republican nominee describes himself on his campaign website as having been “an integral part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s core management team.” During the eight years that Giuliani was mayor (1994 to 2001), Lhota held administrative positions, including budget director during Giuliani’s first term, and was deputy mayor for operations in Giuliani’s second term.

The substance of what he did in the Giuliani administration would seem awfully relevant to Lhota’s run for mayor.  Unlike what happened with Speaker Quinn’s record — where the Times waited until after the primary to mention that Quinn “used her position to block legislation that she (often in alliance with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg) opposed” — perhaps the Times will report on Mr. Lhota’s time with Mayor Giuliani before the general election is held.

Research assistance: Michelle Mayer

Correction (Sept. 26): The pull quote on page 1 has been corrected to clarify that, as stated clearly in the story, the lack of coverage complained of was a lack of coverage of the Speaker’s dictatorial approach to what legislation saw the light of day.

Disclosure note: The editors (strictly in their individual capacities) have been supporters of the de Blasio campaign.


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