New York Times: It’s Not Like Bradley Manning is O.J. Simpson or Something

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has criticized the Times‘ decision not to send a reporter to cover Bradley Manning’s pretrial testimony. Good for her. Times Washington Bureau Chief David Leonhardt, however, defends the paper’s decision.

We’ve covered him and will continue to do so. But as with any other legal case, we won’t cover every single proceeding. In this case, doing so would have involved multiple days of a reporter’s time, for a relatively straightforward story. The A.P. article recounting the main points of Mr. Manning’s testimony about his conditions of confinement that ran on page A3 of The Times conveyed fundamentally the same material as a staff story would have. And Charlie Savage covered his conditions of confinement, as they were being debated, in two previous articles:,

Again, though, readers can definitely expect more coverage of Mr. Manning in the weeks to come.

Not so good for him.

Cause here’s the deal. Once upon a time, there was a trial involving O.J. Simpson. Nicole Brown Simpson, his ex-wife, was found dead on June 12, 1994. After that, the Times ran 494 stories—and that was before the jury had even been sworn in on November 2, 1994. Then the Times ran 453 stories—and that was before the prosecution even made its opening statement on January 4, 1995.  And then the Times ran 1110 stories—before the jury delivered its verdict on October 3.

The reporting pieces were written by senior Times staffers such as Seth Mydans, David Margolick, and Francis X. Clines. And the commentary elicited the efforts of William Safire, Russell Baker, Anna Quindlen, Frank Rich, Brent Staples, A.M. “Out of My Mind” Rosenthal, Michiko Kakutani, and more.

So I think Mr. Leonhardt can spare a reporter or two to tell us what Bradley Manning has to say.

Update (1 pm)

I should have mentioned this in my original post: If you want the whole story on Bradley Manning, you have to read Chase Madar’s book The Passion of Bradley Manning. Chase has been on this case for a long time; would that the Times took his lead.


  1. Stephen Zielinski December 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm | #

    Why cover the Manning testimony? It is not as though the Manning case signifies anything important about the United States, its political elite and its judicial system….

    The key phrase:

    …a relatively straightforward story.

    There is little which is straightforward about the Manning story if one looks closely at the context in which it has developed. Why would the Times want to spend time reporting on the destruction of political accountability in the United States, the neutralization of the civil and political liberties the constitution gives to its citizens or to the degeneration of security-surveillance apparatus into a criminal enterprise? It would not want to spend time reporting on these features of American political life because it has shown itself to be an accomplice of the individuals and institutions that produced this bad state of things.

  2. Frank Moraes December 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm | #

    I have a theory that the media hate Manning. He released documents that embarrassed some powerful people. And the media hate to do anything that might hurt the powerful. It’s after noon, so I can use my favorite Glenn Greenwald quote, “The overwhelming, driving bias of the US media is subservience to power, whoever happens to be wielding it.” You know, the modern media imperative, “To comfort the powerful and to afflict the powerless.”

    More: Bradley Manning’s Crime

    Regardless of any crime that Manning may have committed, he has certainly suffered enough.

  3. Robert December 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm | #

    Stop expecting the Times to do what it is not institutionally designed to do. If you don’t want bourgeuois press, don’t read the bourgeuois press.

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg December 7, 2012 at 3:04 am | #

      I don’t think we should just ignore it and hope it goes away. A bit of mocking critique is surely a more productive approach.

    • Thel December 7, 2012 at 10:40 am | #

      Robert makes a pretty great point here. Not that the Times has an agenda, but they are in the pockets of “the owners”. Why would we expect them to be actively subverting the powerful, whether they be in government or business. It’s simply not their job.

  4. Hebisner December 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm | #

    Could it be manpower? The Times staff like most other newspapers was quite a bit larger in the early 90’s when the O.J. Trial occurred.

  5. Kate December 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm | #

    We have to recognize the truth: people cared about OJ and Nicole Simpson. They don’t care about Bradley Manning. He’s a downer, and makes them feel bad about themselves. The OJ story was a murder mystery/soap opera. It’s absolutely right to criticize the Times’ decision, and yes, they are driven by a class interest a lot of the time, but it’s also driven by what the consumer wants. It’s not like the people are clamoring for political coverage.

  6. Kate Jessica Raphael December 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm | #

    People cared about OJ and Nicole Simpson. It was a murder mystery/soap opera. They don’t care about Bradley Manning. He makes them feel bad about themselves and their country. The Times has a class interest in maintaining the status quo, sure, but they are also a business and tend to give the people what they clamor for, and it’s not more political coverage.

  7. Rick M. December 7, 2012 at 12:12 am | #

    Here’s the thing. We don’t really need the Times anymore and it will be the equivalent of my current hometown paper in 10 years: small, mean, and worthless except for the occasional restaurant review.

    Chase Madar is good. So is Kevin Gosztola at FDL.

  8. g2-b9cc432544b9d266b3efaa190c91c18a December 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm | #

    Yep, just one of many steps taken by newspapers shambling to extinction.

    The NYT was once a great newspaper. Thanks for the memories.

  9. Walter Block December 12, 2012 at 3:24 am | #

    “The Times” is actually a British newspaper. “The New York Times” is a different newspaper.

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