Yesterday afternoon, a former NYT executive named Michael Rosenblum posted a critical comment on Bob Herbert's "Tweet Less, Kiss More" Saturday op-ed column -- an anti-social media diatribe that's still on the NYT's most-emailed list.
"I have no problem with an increasingly interconnected world," Rosenblum wrote, as part of his response to Herbert's essay. "In fact, I like it a lot. And I don't see it as an anti-social activity. Much to the contrary."
But Rosenblum's contrarian observations didn't last long, before the NYT deleted them -- leaving an uninterrupted string of 236 praiseworthy comments on Herbert's column, remarks that ranged from "Amen!" to "Hear hear!" to "You're singing my song!"
In place of Rosenbaum's comment -- #55 -- was the NYT's boilerplate explanation for its comment deletions: "This comment has been removed. Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive."
"I got an email from them confirming it was up," Rosenblum told us via email from vacation in Tuscany, where he posted the comment via his BlackBerry while eating dinner with friends. "Within an hour it was removed. I have no idea by whom or why. I emailed the Times to ask, but as of yet, no answer. The comment was fairly benign, but I note on reading the other ones that I was the only one to disagree with Mr Herbert."
Rosenblum suggested to The NYTPicker that his comment might have been removed because of his past relationship with the NYT, where he worked as a television executive in the late 1990s.
"I was, for two years, both the founder and the first president of New York Times Television, when Punch Sulzberger bought my company," Rosenblum emailed us. "Arthur Jr. [current NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.] and I did not get along (to put it mildly)." Rosenblum now runs a video journalism company called RosenblumTV.
The NYT website tells readers that"most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, " but adds that "moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can."
"We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely," the policy states. "We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence and SHOUTING."
Most of Rosenblum's comment was a benign defense of Twitter, which he considers an ongoing part of the evolution of modern communication.
"Since neolithic times our culture has been shaped by the tools we have embraced," he wrote. "I have no doubt that somewhere near Lascaux some caveman was yelling at his kid: put down that damned stone axe and pay attention. Little has changed."
This morning, we asked the NYT for comment on why Rosenblum's comment was removed, and whether it had anything to do with his previous NYT employment. This afternoon, NYT spokeswoman Diane McNulty issued a statement in response to our inquiry. "Just a reminder," McNulty said via email. "We don't respond to anonymous bloggers."