Saturday, February 21, 2009

UPDATE: Still No Response From Joe Sexton, Metro Editor, or Catherine Mathis, Spokeswoman, Re Dalton Suicide Coverage

A few regular readers have wondered whether we ever heard back from the NYT's Metro Editor, Joe Sexton, or the NYT's spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis. We'd written to them earlier in the week to find out why the NYT failed to cover the suicide jump of a 17-year-old Dalton junior on Wednesday.

Previously, the NYT has been responsive to NYTPicker questions about coverage, which we appreciate. With snarky blog coverage of the NYT available everywhere -- including serious allegations posted with no attempt to get comment -- the NYTPicker has tried to set itself apart by seeking response to its items, when appropriate.

In this case, we believed there might be some legitimate reason the NYT chose not to cover the Dalton suicide story -- a reason that might be illuminating for readers who often wonder, as we do, what makes a seemingly significant story unworthy of the NYT's attention. In the wake of our first item, and the email to Sexton and Mathis, an anonymous commenter posted the theory that executive editor Bill Keller's daughter goes to Dalton, and suggested that connection influenced the decision. We don't know if that's true, but no one has spoken up to contradict it.

We'd be delighted to take that comment down if it isn't true, and to give the NYT a chance to explain its thinking. The paper has lately demonstrated a desire to be transparent about its coverage -- witness the regular "Talk To The Newsroom" sessions where readers can grill top NYT editors about stories in the paper, and its weekly Public Editor columns on the editorial page.

Here's the full text of our email. We look forward to a response and will print it in full as soon as we get it.

Dear Mr. Sexton,

We posted an item on our blog last night wondering when the NYT was planning to report the tragic death of a Dalton student yesterday, a story that was widely covered elsewhere in the NYC media.

We saw no coverage of the story either on the web or in this morning's print edition.

Here is what we have written:

We are wondering if you can explain to us your reasoning behind not reporting this story, either on the website or in print. In the past, the NYT has covered apparent student suicides as news stories. This one would seem to be of particular reader interest, given the prominence of the school in New York City, and the tragic nature of the student's death.

Thank you for any help/insight you can provide us, and we look forward to hearing from you.

The NYTPicker


Anonymous said...

"...the regular 'Talk To The Newsroom' sessions where readers can grill top NYT editors about stories in the paper..."

"Grill" is an odd word, since the editors get to pick and choose which questions they will answer, answer being a moveable feast.

Anonymous said...

They don't like your blog. Take it as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

They prefer to take questions from people who are not anonymous. Take it as a Journalism 101 tip.


The NYT has answered all of the NYTPicker's questions in the past, hence our surprise at its silence on this one. But we'll take the above anonymous comment under advisement.