As anyone who has been following the Amazon-Hachette fight can tell you, Hachette has a number of allies in the media. Right or wrong, certain parties are going to slant their coverage of an Amazon story against Amazon, and it is often easy to tell what the slant will be based on who is writing the piece.
For example, any Amazon article at Salon.com is going to be slanted against the retailer. It doesn’t matter who writes it; the editorial policy is to blame Amazon. Likewise, any piece from David Streitfeld of the NYTimes is going to be slanted against Amazon.
I’ve known Streitfeld had a hate on for Amazon ever since last July, when he took Amazon to task for daring to sell books at or near the publisher’s retail price (I fisked him for it), but it seems that some readers only noticed his bias when he started to
extensively participate in cover the Amazon Hachette contract negotiation.
His unbiased coverage has drawn enough complaints from readers that yesterday the NYTimes’ Public Editor posted a column which questioned the activist role Streitfeld seemed to be taking.
in an article titled “Publishing Battle Should Be Covered, Not Joined”, Margeret Sullivan writes:
Many readers have complained to me that The Times is demonizing Amazon and siding with publishers and those authors who support them. …
“Propaganda” is a stretch, and Mr. Streitfeld has done plenty of solid work. But it’s certainly true that the literary establishment has received a great deal of sympathetic coverage. Authors including Douglas Preston and Philip Roth have been featured giving their allegiance to the complaint against Amazon. …
She then cites less biased coverage elsewhere, and goes on to slap her colleague around again:
In some Times stories, the Amazon position is summarized in a few sentences, and then it’s back to the opposition’s fears and anger.
Consider an article last week on the business section front headlined“Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics.” Quoting the powerful agent Andrew Wylie as predicting the death of literary culture, it reported that many authors — not all of whom are published by Hachette — want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics. But it’s not until near the end that doubt is sown: “Whether a viable case could be mounted against Amazon is a matter of debate among antitrust scholars. An earlier effort by Hachette to interest government regulators in a case did not go anywhere.”
I believe that is called damning with faint praise. She then goes on to reiterate the criticism many have directed at Streitfeld doe his early
support coverage of the Authors United full page ad:
Then there was the Page 1 article in August about a full-page ad criticizing Amazon, signed by 900 authors, that was scheduled to appear in The Times two days later. Noting that ads normally don’t become front-page news, some commenters also objected to Mr. Streitfeld’s seeming dismissal of an opposing petition with nearly 8,000 signatures. He described it as a “rambling love letter” to Amazon.
While I don’t expect this to change the slant of Streitfeld coverage of Amazon, it is nice to see at least someone at the NYTimes acknowledging that there is an issue with its coverage.
To be fair, the NYTimes is not the only newspaper to take a swing at Amazon, but when you compare the NYTimes with its competitors you can get a good impression of just how far Streitfeld is leaning in favor of Amazon’s opponents.
For example, when orders came down at the Wall Street Journal to contribute a hit piece for the coordinated attack on Amazon in early September, they couldn’t find anyone who wanted to put their name on it.
The WSJ is known for crediting multiple contributors on a single article, and yet they couldn’t find a single reporter who would take credit for that hit piece. Instead, I am told that several reporters contributed to the piece, which was published without a byline (link).
As much as I dislike the WSJ management, i respect the journalists for refusing to attach their byline. (Perhaps they should have asked Streitfeld to take it on.)
Thanks, William, for bugging me about this ans inspiring a post rather than a linkin the morning coffee!