The New York Times Book Review (search) is considered the industry bible of what’s hot and what’s not in books. But the publication is coming under increasing fire for what some authors are calling a liberal bias.
“I think a paper that says ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ has a responsibility of covering most things,” said Doug Dutton, manager of Dutton’s bookstore in Los Angeles. “But I think it would be disingenuous to say that the New York Times doesn’t have a leftist slant.”
Critics charge that writers like Michael Moore (search) and Joe Klein get reviewed, while others like Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and radio host Laura Ingraham are ignored.
Others, however, defend the Times.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of shunning them because of their political slant,” said John Baker of Publisher's Weekly (search). “I think it sees itself as having the responsibility to pursue the intellectual zeitgeist as it were, and … not in things that it regards as comparatively transient in terms of political whims and currents of the moment."
But just what is behind the selectivity?
While the Times did not respond to repeated requests for comment, the paper did offer an explanation to author William McGowan’s letter asking why his best seller "Coloring the News" was never reviewed.
The Book Review’s editor said the paper cannot review every book and, like any business, tries to provide coverage that appeals to its readers.
However, some of the most talked-about political nonfiction of the past few years has been left out of the Times.
Joe Conason's “Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth” received a glowing review from the Times, while David Limbaugh's “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christians” was ignored.
Ann Coulter's “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” a best-selling book critical of President Clinton, was overlooked, while pro-Clinton books like Sidney Blumenthal’s “The Clinton Wars” and Joe Klein’s “The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton” were both reviewed.
The Times loved “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century” by columnist Paul Krugman, but ignored McGowan’s National Press Club-winner “Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism,” which attacks affirmative action in media.
“I don’t care if their standards are 'we won’t review anyone who’s just putting out, you know, a pop book that we consider not an intellectually serious book,'” said Coulter. “But, come on, are you telling me that Michael Moore, Molly Ivins, James Carville, Al Franken are putting out deep, weighty, intellectual books?”
Michael Savage's “The Savage Nation,” which spent 18 weeks on the bestseller list and topped out at number one, was also ignored by the Times, while Ivins’ collection of essays that were critical of President Bush was reviewed twice, after only spending six weeks on the list.
Coulter’s “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism” spent 13 weeks as a bestseller, but was not reviewed by the Times, while Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country?” was reviewed after spending four weeks on the bestseller list.
Franken’s best seller “Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” was reviewed the week it was published, while O'Reilly's “The O’Reilly Factor” was never reviewed.
But, with 11 weeks on the bestseller list, O’Reilly recently remarked to Ingraham, “We don’t need them to review our books.”
Fox News' William La Jeunesse contributed to this report.