Perception versus reality – it’s a point that needs to be made until the cows come home.

Did you know that on Tuesday of this week Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, addressed a joint session of Congress? Did you know that not one word of that address, nor even any mention that the event even occurred, appeared in the following day’s national edition of the New York Times?

Aside from a photograph of President Bush and Mr. Karzai on its front page, and a caption mentioning that the two had a news conference in the Rose Garden, the June 16 edition of the New York Times contains not a single word about what Mr. Karzai said to Congress, to Bush or to the American people.

Why the cover up?

Here is the text of Mr. Karzai’s address to Congress. If you actually click on that link, you’ll find that you must pay a subscription fee to read the full text of the speech. That link, by the way, was only one of three links on Google News regarding Karzai’s appearance before Congress. The other two were this abbreviated AP wire story and this pitiful UPI wire story. [Editor’s note: Karzai’s speech in full is posted at Foxnews.com.]

I could not find any coverage in print of the long list of issues President Karzai took special care to raise about the progress in Afghanistan – 30 percent growth in the Afghan economy, dramatic progress in the country’s infrastructure, schools, health-care system and most important, in Karzai’s view, the outstanding progress the country has made in restoring basic civil rights to women.

How did I learn all of this? I just happened to catch Fox News’ live coverage of the president’s press conference; otherwise, I would never have known about Karzai’s address to Congress. And I consider myself a news junky!

The New York Times’ treatment of Karzai’s visit is not the tip of the iceberg – it’s the larger part of the iceberg, the part beneath the water that the public never gets to see.

Also lying beneath the surface, virtually unseen, is one of the greatest economic booms we’ve seen in 30 years. But a recent poll shows just how that reality has diverged from public perception of reality. According to a recent survey sponsored by the Associated Press, 57 percent of the public believe the nation has lost jobs in the last six months. That’s the perception. What’s the reality? Exactly the opposite! During the last six months, the economy generated nearly 1.2 million new jobs.

How could the American people be so misinformed?

The Times typically relegates good economic news to the inside of its business section, almost always using a wire story, rarely assigning any of its own reporters. They made an exception when the extraordinarily strong May payroll numbers came in: The story appeared on the front page, but only under a one-column headline.

Compare that to the four-column headline appearing Thursday, “Panel Finds No Qaida-Iraq Tie,” a story which is being widely criticized as a complete distortion of the facts. The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq was directly involved in the 9-11 attacks, but there were “clear ties” – not “no ties” – between al-Qaida and Iraq before we took military action against Saddam Hussein. The Times reported the exact opposite of the truth in its banner headline.

How could the American people be so misinformed?

It’s a question that the New York Times and editorial boards across this country have a responsibility to ask themselves. Where is the Times’ public editor, Daniel Okrent, when you need him?

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