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February 24, 2008


The Times's choice of terms is instructive. In both articles they say that conservatives "revile" the Times. "Revile" means "to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language; address or speak of abusively." It's a word with a definite negative connotation, carrying a sense that the object of the verb is being treated too harshly. (For example, you'd never write that racism is reviled. The derision of racism may be harsh but it is justified, so a careful author would never write that racism is "reviled.")

To the same effect, the Times has twice (in Bill Keller's answer in the Times's Q&A and in Elisabeth Buhmiller's follow-up article) referred to "McCain's operatives." Keller wrote, "We knew from our experience last year, when word leaked out we were pursuing this story, that Senator McCain's operatives would set out to change the subject by making the story about The New York Times rather than about their candidate." Once again, the Times chooses a word to characterize its critics that puts the critics in a negative light.

Conclusion: The Times can dish it out, but it sure can't take it. And as it often does in news articles it claims to be impartial, the Times employs loaded terms that give the story a slant in the direction the Times reporters and editors favor.

I think they chose a good term. 'Revile' implies a strong personal dislike. I think it points to the the subjective, deep-seated (personal) or emotional nature of the assessment some critics make.

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