Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is The Ikram Goldman Story A Scoop? NYT Says Yes. We Say No.

We'd run out of blog space and energy policing every instance the NYT gets caught up in its own arrogance -- but here's a good one to start your day.

This morning's Styles cover story on Ikram Goldman is being presented to readers as though this is the first time her role as Michelle Obama's stylist has been reported anywhere -- even though her existence and association with Mrs. Obama had been reported in the Daily News and the Huffington Post.

Yet reporters Cathy Horyn and Eric Wilson breathlessly declare, in the second paragraph of their 1,637-word profile:

Despite the close study that people have made of Mrs. Obama’s style, it is not known that her wardrobe is being managed largely by a boutique owner in Chicago. Ikram Goldman, whose store is called Ikram, has played an unprecedented role since the election, serving as gatekeeper between the fashion industry and the first lady.

But on Inauguration Day, the New York Daily News published a profile of Ikram Goldman by reporter Piper Weiss, entitled "Meet Ikram Goldman - the woman with the keys to Michelle Obama's closet." Eight days later, a Huffington Post profile ("Ikram Goldman, The Most Powerful Woman In American Fashion") by Nour Akkad appeared on the website.

Both stories made essentially the same point as the Horyn/Wilson profile, that the Chicago fashion stylist plays a central role in helping the First Lady decide what to wear.

The NYT's piece goes a bit further than the previous pieces, chronicling Goldman's role in this month's Vogue cover shoot of Mrs. Obama. It also raises a question of conflict of interest on Goldman's part because she is a retailer, and could profit from the sale of clothes Mrs. Obama wears. It's a good piece and brings up legitimate questions that aren't adequately answered by Mrs. Obama's spokeswoman.

But in-depth reporting doesn't entitle the NYT to misrepresent its story as the first of its kind, when it's not.

Words like "it is not known" telegraph to readers that this is the first time they're hearing about Goldman's existence, or her current job. That's not true for the millions of people who read the Daily News or the Huffington Post.

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