New York Times vs. Washington Post – 5 – Dr. Bernanke, President Obama, Prime Minister Singh

In Mathematics, you begin with a hypothesis and then you either prove it or find a counterexample to disprove it. Unfortunately, Journalism does not lend itself to precise conclusions that can be proved or disproved. But sometimes, the sheer weight and persistence of empirical evidence can get close to a proof.

Our first article on the differences between the New York Times and the Washington Post was in June 2008. In that article, we stated our hypothesis that these two newspapers exhibit the characteristics of their cities; the New York Times articles show a competitive, open and global outlook while the Washington Post articles are more insular and derive their inspiration as well as sources from the governments, both US and Foreign. 

We have now written 5 articles comparing the NYT and Wash Post approaches.  The last two showed how these two Newspapers cover the sensitive topic of Pakistan-Afghanistan. This 5th article looks at the coverage of President Obama’s trip to India in these two newspapers.

The first story we review today is by Vikas Bajaj in the New York Times titled Fed Action gets an Unexpected Endorsement from India . The major story of the past two weeks has been the controversial Quantitative Easing announced by Chairman Bernanke of the US Federal Reserve. Countries like Brazil, China and Germany have criticized this action stridently. The German Finance Minister called it “clueless”.

The Washington Post reporters took the standard line and reported this controversy as between the isolated United States vs. the Emerging Markets and Europe. There was no discussion of this topic by the reporters who covered President Obama’s trip to India.

Mr. Bajaj of the New York Times did by showing how America and India look at monetary policy through the same lens. He reported that India endorsed the Fed’s action and provided a key quote from India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

  • “A strong, robust, fast-growing United States is in the interests of the world,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “And therefore, anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity.”
Mr. Bajaj went on to explain that India is not as dependent on exports as China, Germany and Brazil and that India’s currency, the rupee, has also appreciated less in relation to the dollar than others like the Brazilian real. He added:

  • “India, unlike other developing nations like Brazil and Thailand, has generally welcomed foreign capital that has flooded into emerging markets in search of higher-yielding assets. India needs foreign investment to help fund its large current account deficit — more than 3 percent of its gross domestic product.”
This similarity between Indian & US economies and the resultant congruence in the monetary approaches of Obama & Singh was not covered by any one in the Washington Post. Strange given that the Federal Reserve is based in Washington DC.

Relations between leaders of large, noisy and truculent democracies like America and India do depend on the congruence of national interests as well as geo-strategic perceptions. But as Mel Gibson says in the movie Payback, “when you go high enough, there is always one man”. That man in the USA is the President and that man in India is the Prime Minister.

Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times has written an excellent article titled Friendship Parallels a Strategic Partnership . We urge you to read this article. Ms. Polgreen looks back at the relationship between American Presidents and Indian Prime Ministers going back to Eisenhower and Nehru, to Lyndon Johnson and Indira Gandhi.

President George W. Bush and President Obama seem to be very different personalities to say the least. Yet, they both developed a bond based on respect and friendship with Prime Minister ManMohan Singh. Ms. Polgreen discusses these two relationships in her article.

The two articles above show a willingness to delve a bit deeper into a story and to bring new angles to readers. This seems to be a characteristic of the New York Times.

In contrast, read the long article by Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post about President Obama’s support of India as a permanent member of U.N. Security council . This is a perfect example of a Washington Post article, drawn almost entirely from governmental sources and from their lobbyists in Washington DC. There is nothing in this article to explain why President Obama took this unprecedented step, no discussion about how the two countries see the world in similar ways, no explanation how India’s seat as a permanent member can help America. In fact, nothing but a rehash of talking points given by embassies and activist groups. Read the excerpts below:

  • a powerful endorsement of India’s growing economic power and global aspirations, but one likely to anger China and Pakistan. 
  • India’s quest for a seat would like face particular opposition from China, a permanent member of the council and India’s economic rival, and from nations and advocacy groups who say India’s conduct in the disputed Kashmir region and elsewhere consistently violates key U.N. resolutions.
  • Chinese commentators have expressed concerned that the growing relations between India and the United States are an attempt to “encircle” China.
  • Shortly after the speech, Pakistan expressed opposition to a permanent seat for India and chided Obama’s endorsement for adding “complexity to the process” of reforming the Security Council. In a statement, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry cited “India’s conduct in relations with its neighbors and its continued flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions” on Kashmir as reasons to discredit the proposal. It said Pakistan hopes the United States would “take a moral view” of the issue and set aside “any temporary expediency or exigencies of power politics.”
  • More broadly, the U.N. Human Development Report said India fares worse than Pakistan on gender equality issues such as a maternal mortality, education and nutrition.
  • “Ours is not an ordinary relationship,” Obama said about ties with India. “As the world’s largest democracies, as growing market economies, we have not only an opportunity but also a responsibility to lead”..

As we said, nothing but a collection of talking points from various DC sources. Compare the trite stuff above to the short but succinct analysis of Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post in his opinion Why President Obama is right about India.

  • …India, which has a border war with China, is the most natural anchor for such a U.S. partnership. It’s not just our inherent affinities – being democratic, English-speaking, free-market and dedicated to the rule of law. It is also the coincidence of our strategic imperatives. We both face the common threat of radical Islam and the more long-term challenge of a rising China. China is no enemy, but it remains troublingly adversarial.  Which is why India must be the center of our Asian diplomacy. And why Obama’s trip..was worth every penny.

As we said, succinct if limited. We wonder why don’t Washington Post reporters learn from their own opinionators if not from the New York Times.

Send your feedback to [email protected]