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The Times According to William Proctor

illustrationWilliam Proctor '66 recognizes the New York Times's preeminence as the country's newspaper of record. That's why he reads it every morning, and why he's written a book lambasting it.

In The Gospel According to the New York Times, Proctor contends that the paper blurs the lines that should divide straight news from editorial content. In doing so, the Times tips its hand and reveals its liberal agenda, one supportive of homosexuality and abortion, and critical of Christianity, Republicanism, gun control, and capital punishment, among other issues.

Proctor, who was a reporter himself at the New York Daily News in the '70s, acknowledges that total journalistic objectivity is never possible. And in an interview with the Bulletin, he allowed that crossing the line between news and editorial is a growing trend in many papers. He chose to focus on the Times, he said, because of the enormous influence that stems from "being at the top of the heap."

Influence is just what Proctor tries to protect readers from. Published by Broadman & Holman, a Christian publishing house, and subtitled How the World's Most Powerful News Organization Shapes Your Mind and Values, Proctor's book warns readers against "Culture Creep" that has the power to "shape individual minds, alter personal beliefs, and produce broad-based social and political changes."

An evangelical protestant, Proctor acknowledges that he can't get rid of all of his biases any more than the Times can. But he insists that as he wrote and researched the book he tried simply "to let the pages of the paper speak." In fact, he says, he agrees with many of the Times's positions and is very much in favor of strict gun control and against capital punishment, for example.

He is, on the other hand, adamantly opposed to abortion. He questioned how, with regard to the animal rights movement, the paper can be "moving towards giving animals a certain degree of personhood that they wouldn't accord to a fetus two minutes before birth."

Although Proctor says that to some extent the Times is simply reporting on what is happening in society, he contends that it is also contributing to shaping our views. He cites active and positive coverage of homosexuality, which he believes has swayed popular opinion in favor of gays and lesbians. He says he was surprised to see the active hostility that surfaced in inflammatory language describing members of conservative religious groups.

Proctor, who has made his career as a writer, with titles on subjects ranging from health care to religion, wrote his first book in reaction to religious hostility he experienced at Harvard College. Titled Survival on Campus: A Handbook for Christian Students, it was based on a journal he kept as an undergraduate. Yet he says his experiences at the College and at Harvard Law School were among the most stimulating, and that he still looks back on them with great fondness.

You might not expect this from the man who wrote, "The Times and the Ivy League, especially Harvard, have become cozy spiritual bedfellows. They work quite naturally in tandem to reinforce a rather consistent worldview--a leftist, humanist 'gospel,' if you will--which they have resolved to spread far beyond the bounds of the Northeast."

Proctor himself knows how to use inflammatory rhetoric, it seems, but he says he was just trying to rise to the level of the Times.

--E.N.

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