Sunday, August 16, 2009

Clark Hoyt Agrees With NYTPicker: Brad Stone's Front-Page Story This Week Kinda Sucked.

Let's get our conflict of interest out of the way first. Clark Hoyt's Public Editor column today credits The NYTPicker with breaking the story of Brad Stone's web of connections to the sources in his page-one story this week, and with "embarrassing The Times" in the process.

Thanks, Clark! We're flattered to get a hyperlink in your column, and to appear in the NYT itself.

More to the point is the fact that Hoyt's reporting made even more clear the nature of Stone's failings. It turns out Stone and his editor knew about the sourcing problems we pointed out, and went ahead with them anyway. But business editor Larry Ingrassia now tells Hoyt that "Brad should have cast the net wider" in his reporting.

Hoyt himself had harsh words for Stone's story, which purported to prove that more Americans check their email and social media networks before even having coffee in the morning. Hoyt's conclusion:

But it should surprise no one that people who blog and post would be consumed with electronic networking. Whether the article spotted a trend among a broad swath of Americans is impossible to tell, at least from the sources The Times quoted.

Hoyt's right. It's not news that Internet-savvy professionals would go online first thing in the morning. He correctly said Stone's sources were not only compromised by their relationship to the NYT and to Stone, but also not representative of a broad social phenomenon. Good point, Clark!

It's refreshing to see Hoyt come down squarely against the NYT for a change. In the case of the problems in the Stone story the NYT's position had so far only amounted to a short comment to The NYTPicker from spokeswoman Catherine Mathis. But in the face of Hoyt's objections, the NYT has backed off the story, too.

“You can’t do a story on a national trend with so little evidence," standards editor Craig Whitney told Hoyt, in reference to Stone's story. We agree.


Anonymous said...

I know who you guys are.

Anonymous said...

If he knows, why doesn't Anonymous tell us?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like a group of former news assistants.

Anonymous said...

Hey, just a few days ago, you had an interesting story about the race of the NYT critics. Now it's gone. Why? Was there a problem with it?

scott g. said...

i'm surprised you guys even care about that article. i mean, talk about fluff anyway, who cares how sourced it is?

Anonymous said...

I agree. As long as the sources are telling the truth, who cares whether he kinda knows them.

It's hard to write these stories about emerging "trends". We could wait a few years for the sociologists to do some semi-legitimate surveys with semi-real data or we could just string together several anecdotes.

At this point it's kind of understood that every story like this should contain a paragraph after the nut graf saying, "Not everyone is feeling the same way and not everyone feels that this is really a real trend, but an ad hoc collection of a few people seemed to be in agreement."

Diane said...

All right, you collective Anonymous commenters: Let's just let reporting go to hell. That's where it's headed anyway, right? So why fight a trend...
Next time I want to report on something, I'm just going to quote "reliable sources," without mentioning to you guys that they are my own reflection in two mirrors. That's basically what you're willing to accept. I don't care how insignificant the topic, if something's on the front page of any self-respecting newspaper, it should adhere to the minimum of journalistic standards. If you can't trust the minor or fluff pieces, how can you trust the bigger stuff. Seems you can't. I can't believe what I read in the comment from someone who implies he/she is a reporter, whining about how hard it is to be a reporter chasing trends. Go stand somewhere in a health-care town hall and say that, you sorry excuse for a hack.