Tuesday, November 19, 2013

19-Nov-13: After today's NY Times apology, a request of its Public Editor [UPDATED]

We wrote here ["14-Nov-13: To really understand about terrorism's victims, can't beat the New York Times"] a few days ago about the abysmal editorial decisions that led to an article about a sleeping youngster, freshly inducted into the IDF to do his national service, being slashed to death while he lay asleep on a bus. The NYTimes editors, it will be recalled, chose to illustrate that only-too-familiar episode with a sympathy-evoking photograph of the knifer's mother. Our complaint echoed those of many other people.

Today there's an apology by the Public Editor of the NY Times, Margaret Sullivan, under the heading "Photo of Palestinian Mother Was the Wrong Choice". A brief extract:
Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the subjects I hear the most about, with readers on both sides convinced that The Times is biased. The foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, told me that reporters and editors do their utmost to present news on this topic accurately and fairly. “We are, have been and need to be very attuned to the message that images, as well as words, send to readers on one of the most delicate subjects The New York Times covers,” Mr. Kahn said. “We don’t always get it right.” The prominent use of this photograph was a case of getting it wrong. [NY Times]
We were going to rip into Margaret Sullivan's apology too. But as we looked through the comments published on the page in the digital edition, we found that a reader had captured a good part of what we wanted to say. So we will quote him:
John Burke | New York | The Times has hundreds of editors -- hundreds. Yet, these "regrettable" mistakes and lapses from its supposedly strict normal standards happen every day. Some, like this one, are more egregious than others, prompting inquiries from the public editor and the need to trot out the usual hooey about how "we don't always get it right." So, just how many layers of picture editors, copy editors, foreign editors, online editors and managing editors are needed to grasp that the murderer's mother is not the story (except perhaps in Ramallah)? It's clear to everyone that only deep-seated bias could possibly account for this choice -- and many other choices. [NY Times]
There's plenty more that is wrong with the original report in the NY Times (please see our critical comments) as well as a history in which we have taken part, and which has delivered to us more than the customary amount of heartache and personal pain than a great metropolitan newspaper normally dishes out. If the editors at the New York Times could be persuaded to have their Public Editor review what we tried to have them see in past articles here, that would be progress.

So, Ms Margaret Sullivan, in your diligent and thankless Public Editor efforts: perhaps you might devote some moments to the first-person critiques of ours listed below, and let us know if you feel your colleagues "got it right" on those earlier occasions. We feel quite sure they did not, and though we are accustomed to being ignored, we do wish more people understood better how editorial discretions tend to be exercised at 620 8th Avenue.

UPDATE Wednesday November 20, 2013: How genuine are the apologies issued in the name of America's most important newspaper? We tweeted this message to our followers about 24 hours ago:
It's been nearly two full days since the Public Editor of the New York Times said "The prominent use of this photograph was a case of getting it wrong". Wrong or not, that photograph remains just as prominently displayed as before in its original location. (Tip of the hat to @DrMikeH49.) What's more, Margaret Sullivan's apology in the name of the New York Times editors is nowhere to be seen on the article for which she apologized: not linked, not quoted, not mentioned. 

Some apology.

We snapped the screen shot below two minutes ago. (This here is the original location.) Readers might want to check to see if it's still there now.  

At the NY Times, they "don't always get it right" and keep on not getting it right. Click here to see if the unacceptable image is still on display.


JeffE said...

Excellent post. And as of this writing, the unacceptable image is still there. :-(

YMedad said...

I have inside information that (a) the NYT does not consider the Public Editor's words an apology but simply a column; (b) the digital edition will not be changed.


This Ongoing War said...

Mr Medad, what you write here is quite stunning. We have felt the sting of being ignored by the NYT editors when stories directly touched us, personally. It's frustrating and painful, no doubt about it. But we have been ignored by other large bodies, including a certain Middle East government to which we pay our taxes, on issues just as painful if not more so, and we have learned how small we and our interests are in their eyes. But the NYT scandal is different. Here they pretend to have an attentive ear, an editor who represents us small people. But in light of what you say, her role - taken together with what she conceded in her column - is a farce. Understanding what it means when Big Journalism engages in farce, and the damage that flows from that, ought to make for interesting analysis by less ideologically-dedicated journalism professionals. We intend to start hunting for some.

Anonymous said...

Still there. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

CDG, Yerushalayim