It’s been a tough week for the New York Times, but let’s give the newspaper credit for this: it employs an ombudsman who has no problem telling the bosses they got it wrong, and the paper has no problem — apparently — allowing him to do it in public. The Star Tribune once did the same thing (who can ever forget Kate Parry’s Sid Hartman “the rules don’t apply to me” column?).
“A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.”
That, of course, leaves only this question: Why on earth don’t the folks who put the article together, and the Times’ blogging apologists understand this? We’re not talking about the Boofus Bugle.
As Hoyt said, without the sex angle, the Times was on to a good story about cronyism, something that local media critic Brian Lambert pointed out.
Here’s what I hear from people in the business, including some people in my own newsroom : “if the Times didn’t have the goods, they wouldn’t have gone with the story.” In his otherwise solid post, Lambert said, “The New York Times would not have trotted out this angle if they didn’t have plenty to back it up.”
Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant to the central fact that, as Hoyt says in the following paragraph, failure to follow the best two-word guideline for journalists — prove it — violates basic standards.
“…If you cannot provide readers with some independent evidence, I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed.”