Is the New York Times taking a dive on IRS email story?

There is more than a little interest about why the nation’s No. 1 newspaper, the New York Times, has been slow to cover the growing IRS scandal.

Some dismiss the Times as a thoroughly politically compromised entity that is providing cover for President Barack Obama and the liberal agenda.

I don’t think that’s it. It is a liberal newspaper on its opinion pages, but I think it’s more than that.

Early on, before the story took a turn against the IRS, Lois Lerner was a source for the Times. She helped the newspaper write stories on the potentially illegal political involvement of nonprofit groups that generally opposed Obama’s agenda — tea party-like groups.

Lerner also became a part of a three-way conversation that involved the newspaper and the Department of Justice.

But then the story exploded in the other direction. All of a sudden the big questions wasn’t about the nuances of tax law regarding nonprofits and political activity, but the clear pattern of the IRS treating groups opposing Obama far differently than groups supporting Obama.

The story became about a runaway government agency with possible connections to the White House. It went from esoteric to Watergate in a short span.

During that time, the Times couldn’t get out of the way of its original reporting premise and stubbornly treated Lerner more like a colleague than a news subject. It influenced how they approached the story.

Now that the “lost” emails have raised the stake in this story — leading many credible people to start whispering “Watergate” and “impeachment” — the Time can’t seem to get back in the game.

Instead, they are doing Q & A stories like this, leaving them in the journalistic back seat to other national newspapers, such as the Washington Post. (BTW, that happened during Watergate, too, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, the Times isn’t a player on the scandal within a scandal — yet.

I hope they get in the story and let the facts fall where they may. Good government needs Times journalism at the table.