Sunday, January 18, 2009
NYT's Styles Editor Trip Gabriel Tells Nytpicker: "Don't Be So Literal."
NYT's Styles editor Trip Gabriel has responded to the Nytpicker's questions about the "Modern Love" disclaimer published today. As a bonus, he threw in his reaction to the more recent post about the lead photo in his section today. We didn't even ask.
Here's the full text of Gabriel's email:
The disclaimer isn't new. We've run variations of it every two or three months for about a year. Even though most readers surely understand that personal essay writers don't record the real-time spoken words of people in their lives (usually), we thought it would be useful to spell this out, given that Times readers do expect that in news stories quotations are verbatim.
Most of the dialogue in "Modern Love'' is paraphrased, not quoted. But even if it's between quotation marks and recalled from memory, the editors make clear to contributors that events must be real. For example, we don't allow pseudonyms or composite characters.
Every editor of personal memoirs has become all too aware in recent years of the capacity for fraud. We have a rigorous editing process designed to prevent this.
By the way, I disagree with you that the lead photo with Alex Williams's story today misled readers. Obviously it was taken in the middle of the night when Times Square had cleared out -- or been cleared out -- as any New Yorker would know. Sometimes photos are suggestive, as this one was. Don't be so literal.