The New York Times and the Academy Awards

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

I'll note upfront that this item doesn't have to do with conservative misinformation. But it does deal with the state of journalism, and it's a topic that's sort of irked me for a while. Plus it's the weekend. So there.

I realize newspaper advertisers are becoming increasingly scarce, and for the Times, Hollywood studios spend tons of money with the daily. But I've been struck recently by the increasingly cozy relationship between the newspaper and the studios; a relationship that as a reader, diminishes the Times' news reputation.

In terms of cozy, I'm talking about the the annual holiday movie special section, which is stacked with ads but rather perfunctory articles, the annual Oscar preview special section, the predictable summer movie preview special section, and the recent Sunday Times magazine, which pretty much devoted its entire issue to feather-light pieces about Oscar nominees.

Slate's Timothy Noah recently took a closer look, noting that the Times' doting on the Oscars comes at a time when fewer and fewer news consumers seem interested in the annual awards presentation:

A Nexis database search turns up, in the New York Times, 251 mentions of the phrase Academy Awards or the word Oscars since Jan. 1. That's more mentions in the Times than for the words Pakistan (186), Geithner (169), foreclosure (142), or Blagojevich (66)...While Times Oscar coverage has been trending upward, the American public's interest in the Academy Awards, as measured by Nielsen ratings, has mostly been trending downward...The 2008 Oscar ratings were the lowest ever recorded. Thirty-two million Americans watched, compared with the peak Oscar audience of 55 million in 1998.

Noah points out that the annual number of Oscar mentions in the Times has nearly doubled in the last ten year, as viewership for the program has been nearly cut in half.

The Times needs to pull way back on its Oscar obsession. There are far more important topics to address (even within the A&E world), and its obsequious coverage often comes across studio butt-kissing, and not much more.

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