That's what the Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt concluded in his column today, although he was more polite. He said the Times' campaign coverage has been bogged down in "horse race, political tactics, polls and the like."
In other words, trivia.
Clark's assistant counted up the number of articles the Times has published regarding the campaign since late August. The findings [emphasis added]:
Through Friday, of 270 news articles published in The Times about the election since the national tickets were formed in late August, only 29, or a little over 10 percent, were primarily about policy substance. And that is a generous tally that includes some very brief items.
My guess is if Hoyt were not being "generous," the tally would be closer to five percent. Or, 95 percent of the mighty New York Times general election coverage has been pretty much substance-free.
This, of course, after numerous polls have shown American news consumers are absolutely desperate for substance in the campaign coverage. It's their number one request of the campaign press. But the Beltway press couldn't care less because the coverage they produce is not aimed at voters, it's aimed at other journalists.
Two quick points about the Hoyt tally. If he had included Times opinion columns in that mix of campaign coverage, my guess is the percentage of subtance would have plummeted even lower.
Second, that tally only covered the general election. I don't have an assistant to count articles, but that if I did and the assistant counted up campaign articles published in the Times since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton kicked off the campaign season in early 2007, my very conservative hunch is the total would hover around 1,000 articles, of which probably 900+ would be listed as substance-free.
But fear not Times readers! Hoyt reports that editors claim they're going to address all that (annoying) substance stuff between now and Election Day.