Tuesday, November 26, 2013

25-Nov-13: NYTimes Public Editor breaks silence to hide behind hair-splitting policies

If the NYT editors are not ashamed, and they're not,
we're ashamed for them
Further to the matters we raised in "24-Nov-13: Attention NY Times editors: What, if anything, is the public entitled to expect from a Public Editor?" the Public Editor of the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, has an article today ["Why a Times Photo Remains Online After Criticism"] that starts this way:
After I wrote last week about a photograph of a Palestinian mother, many readers and many other observers complained that – since two senior editors agreed it was not a good choice for dominant art with the story about an Israeli soldier’s death – it was wrong for The Times to not remove the photo online. 
She goes on to quote Philip B. Corbett, the NYT's associate managing editor for standards who explained that 
except to correct factual errors, we very rarely change or delete published content. The stories that remain accessible through our website constitute our electronic archive of what The Times has actually published, parallel to the print and microfilm versions of our archive that we have always maintained. My colleagues and I frequently receive requests to alter or delete published material from our archive, for a wide range of reasons. We explain that our policy is not to do so. Other than for factual errors, if we routinely went back into a story published days, weeks or years earlier – rewriting, re-editing, adding or deleting photos or other elements – pretty soon our archive would cease to be an archive at all.
Very rarely, he said? The NYT's editors routinely change the contents and headlines of already-published on-line articles, as one of the commenters on the page points out. Why is it OK for them to add a line at the top or bottom of a published piece reflecting a factual correction or an editorial post-publication comment, but not here in this present case where the Public Editor says, and with justice, that they got it wrong (about choosing to publish a sympathetic photo of a killer's mother in a story about a murder)? Is there no precedent for the editors adding a line to a published article recording the fact, for anyone interested, that the Public Editor reviewed this and thought they screwed up?

At the NYTimes, when they run for shelter behind pseudo rules and technical policies like this, do they demonstrate visible signs of embarrassment? We're embarrassed for them.

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