How Dare You Support Those Who Agree with You!

The New York Times is generally recognized at the nation’s newspaper of record, and rightly so. Times reporting typically is broad, in-depth, nuanced, and thoughtful. It should be on everyone’s daily reading list.

But the Times sometimes allows its general excellence to be interrupted by yellow journalism, as exemplified by today’s prominent article describing (and implicitly decrying) contributions made by the Walton Family Foundation to several public policy groups whose scholars have written or spoken in support of various Wal-Mart practices.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Cato was not mentioned in the article. I have no idea whether Cato receives any contributions from the Walton Family Foundation.)

The upshot:

[T]he financing, which totaled more than $2.5 million over the last six years, according to data compiled by GuideStar, a research organization, raises questions about what the research groups should disclose to newspaper editors, reporters or government officials.

Curiously, buried deep in the article, is this little nugget:

Conservative groups are not the only ones weighing in on the Wal-Mart debate. Ms. Williams of Wal-Mart noted labor unions have financed organizations that have been critical of Wal-Mart, like the Economic Policy Institute, which received $2.5 million from unions in 2005.

In response, Chris Kofinis, communications director for WakeUpWalmart.com, an arm of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union that gives money to liberal research groups, said: “While we openly support the mission of economic justice, Wal-Mart and the Waltons put on a smiley face, hide the truth, all while supporting right-wing causes who are paid to defend Wal-Mart’s exploitative practices.”

So, the New York Times gives the scandal treatment to the Walton Family Foundation’s handing out a little over over $400,000 a year to a bunch of public policy groups that write favorably about Wal-Mart, but barely acknowledges that anti–Wal-Mart forces gave out $2.5 million in just one year to just one group that criticizes Wal-Mart. And the Times lets the leader of one of those anti–Wal-Mart groups give a hammer quote decrying think tanks as Wal-Mart hacks.

What’s most disappointing is that the Times didn’t give any consideration at all to what should have been the fundamental question of the article: Is there merit to the pro–Wal-Mart arguments made by think tanks that receive Walton money? Or, are those arguments flawed, suggesting their authors may have been influenced by the Walton money?

The Times article is, in essence, a pathetic ad hominem attack.

And that is a ridiculous failure for a newspaper as fine as the Gray Lady.

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