Harvard's leading authorities on international affairs regard the New York Times' foreign reporting as the most accurate and comprehensive of any newspaper in the world. They consider the strikebound paper more competetent than Europe's major dailies in covering spot news and editing it objectively.
Most of the authorities differed sharply with the criticisms presented by George Lichtheim in an article entitled "All the News That's Fit to Print" which appeared in the September issue of Commentary magazine.
Lichtheim, a former correspondent himself and currently a visiting professor at Stanford, criticized the Times for overemphasixing "spot news" at the expense of more interpretive, "analytical coverage," and for allowing editorial biases to influence coverage of international affairs.
'Best Paper Now'
"The Times isn't perfect", John D. Montgomery, Secretary of the Graduate School of Public Administration, said recently, "but it's the best paper there is right now." Of the 16 members of the faculty interviewed last week by the CRIMSON, almost all agreed with Montgomery that although "there may be more room in the paper for Times strikes a good balance.
Lichtheim asserted that the Times "persistently fails" to "acquaint its readers with the real drift of affairs abroad, notably when that drift--and this is where a kind of censorship appears to come in--runs counter to the editorial frame of reference."
"The overall impression," he said "is a compound of ignorance, provincialism, and plain incompetence."
'Can't Be Best'
Among those who disagreed strongly with Lichtheim's appraisal was Morton H. Halperin, assistant professor of Government. The Times, Halperin explained, "shares the weakness of American newspapers in general in interpreting the domestic policies of other countries." But Lichtheim, he said, "shares a European tendency to overlook the degree to which facts are important," and "for the facts, the Times can't be beat."
Almost all of those interviewed concurred with Halperin that the Times "compares very well" with Le Monde, the London Times and The London Daily Telegraph--the newspapers that Lichtheim favors.
The Times "is much more consistent and regular on its reporting in China than European papers like Le Monde," said John M. Lindbeck, associate director of the East Asian Research Center. In the Midle East, said Nadav Safran, assistant professor of Government, "the Times is doing a terrific job."
"I'm sure there are gaps in, its coverage of Asia and India in particular," commented John K. Galbraith, Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics, "but I would consider it preferable to anything else we have. New York Times and AP reporters are the best in the world."
African Coverage Good
In covering Africa, said Martin Kilson, lecturer in Government, the Times "compares extremely well with Le Monde and other continental pa pars. Although American correspondents lack the informal sources of information and correspondence that European papers have in former colonies, the Times may be even somewhat better than the British and continental dailies in areas like East and South Africa "where the racial issue is explicit."
A majority of the professors interviewed last week also disagreed with Lichtheim's contention that editorial biases frequently influence the Times' foreign coverage. Editorial biases, explained Benjamin I. Schwartz '38, professor of History and Government, are "built-in limitations that I would expect to find in any newspaper, and the Times seems to have struck a pretty good balance."
But Schwartz, an authority on contemporary China, also noted that "even given the fact that U.S. correspondents are not allowed in China," there should be more reporting on internal developments.
Helio Jaguaribe, visiting professor of Government, said that in Latin America "there are quite a lot of facts fit to print that don't appear in the New York Times"--primarily because not enough space is made available by the editors. In its analysis, as well as its spot news coverage, he said, the Times' editorial bias often causes it to accept at face value official assurances of progress.
Montgomery noted that the Times "seems to be spread pretty thin" in Africa. As a result he said, its coverage tends to be episodic and spasmodic."
The majority of those interviewed, however, seemed to agree with Safran that these complaints were "well taken but utoplan."
The academic community, said Safran, has failed to provide the broader view of sociological and political movements that would guide the reporter of day to day events in more interpretive coverage. "I challenge Mr. Lichtheim to mention five books that would provide guidance to an intelligent Times reporter in Latin America," Safran said.
"After all," he continued, "The Times cannot maintain a research institute in every capital. The reporter who is going out to South America cannot go to school forever like the professor.