In a statement to The NYTPicker this afternoon, the NYT has acknowledged that reporter Brad Stone did not inform his editors of his connections to the sources used in his page-0ne story today, and has conceded that Stone's "small number of examples" weren't enough to prove his thesis.
The statement, from NYT spokeswoman Catherine Mathis, goes on to declare: "If the editors of the article had known about the relationships among those quoted, that would have given them additional reason to ask for more examples."
The NYTPicker reported earlier today that all the examples used in Stone's story -- a trend piece about Americans' early-morning addiction to online activity, often before breakfast -- were people connected to Stone or the NYT in some direct way. Those connections weren't disclosed in the piece -- or, apparently, to Stone's editors.
In at least one instance, Stone deliberately camouflaged the connection between two separate anecdotes who worked in the same office. In another, Stone quoted a regular NYT contributor who has written for the business section. The story's lead example, Karl Gude, was a former colleague of Stone's from Newsweek.
Mathis does note that "we believe the article identified a real trend." In other words, the NYT is standing by Stone's front-page revelation that many American check their email before breakfast.
Here is the NYT statement, in full, in response to questions directed to business editor Larry Ingrassia and reporter Brad Stone:
We believe the article identified a real trend, but that it should have adduced more evidence for it than the small number of examples provided. The reporter did in fact speak to a much wider group of people than those quoted, but chose those who seemed to have the most interesting observations and experiences. The fact that some were people he knew does not itself invalidate the thesis, though if the editors of the article had known about the relationships among those quoted, that would have given them additional reason to ask for more examples.
As an aside, The NYTPicker is really going to miss Catherine Mathis's convoluted yet pithy responses to our questions. We often marvel at her ability to acknowledge a mistake so subtly -- as she did, above -- that it takes two or three readings to catch it. Really, this particular response includes, as she would probably put it, a veritable cornucopia of caveats.
Also, hats off to Mathis's unexpected and pinpoint use of the verb "adduced."
EARLIER POST: NYT's Brad Stone Camouflages Backgrounds And Connections Of Anecdotal Sources In Today's Page-One Trend Story.