Sunday, July 18, 2010

NYT Deletes Critical Comment From Former NYT Executive On Bob Herbert's "Tweet Less, Kiss More" Column.

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."


Anonymous said...

His comment is vulgar and incoherent.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @6:27 pm:

What is either vulger or incoherent about the comment? Please explain.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why you’re bouleversed by this deletion as if it were a catastrophy... Cave dwellers held most tools with hands and fingers. Humans, embrace each other and brace infants. Human as a tool, is an unsophisticated allusion that should only be fit for print if someone is paying. Humans also embrace concepts, for eg. embracing the adornment of petrifying camouflage advantaged warrior societies for a while.

Damned is unrefined.

Stone is a quasi-masonic word choice, fit for a transitory chug along buddy to hick up but too unenlightened to print for free. A neolithic ‘Stone axe’ is an idiotic analog for the tiny and flashy digital gadgets that pacify growing children into defective hyperwired chipper unyanked studs with no advanced or elite skills.

Anonymous said...

So it's okay for the NYT to delete comments if they are unsophisticated or unrefined. Thanks for clarifying the policy.

Anonymous said...

"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."

Were you expecting something else?

Anonymous said...

Now only if they applied such untenable standards to David Brooks’ spontaneously generated words and replaced him with someone with less contempt for factuality.

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

Good thing nytpicker doesn't delete comments for incoherence. Otherwise anonymous @7:19 would be toast.

Anonymous said...

Toast readers as chin chin to the cohanim. Brooks, on the other hand, sucks so bad it’d take a whole blog to dispel his fabrications, though on the positive side, his presence is useful to gage how quickly the gullible buy up ‘this is science, baby’ explanations.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank nytpicker. Without this level of attention, I might still think the New York Times was doing something journalistic. These people are -- and I say this with no sarcasm intended -- clearly insane.

I mean, seriously, they delete a comment and won't say why?

Anonymous said...

Fine print re: Brooks
Allied investors wishing to outmaneuver his crystallized indicated settings (recipient and disseminator of pseudo-science; low frequency recorded lifelong content update cycle; violent fringe tranquilization track; handpicked as obnoxious-to-scholars and flexible-to-vendors grid-modeled stable archetype) stay put for further directions by means of your trade IP submitted with innocuous comment by his next column. Apologies for mumbo jumbo hymnal rhyme and rhythmic nerve busted out in the land of the free and home of the brave where the eagle soars, so I help myself

Anonymous said...

Possible explanations:
>unwanted click
>commentator on automated blacklist
>or something less disturbingly sinister as the rather casuistical rethoriciens above have put forth.

Michael Rosenblum said...

Send me Diane McNulty's email and I will be happy to ask her myself.

Anonymous said...

Diane McNulty: the NYTimes is simply childish and cowardly to hide behind the "we don't respond to anonymous bloggers" excuse. It is clear you are simply afraid to answer your more engaged readers, who speak through the NYTPicker Blog. Every day the NYTimes expects us readers to accept your "anonymous sources," "highly placed sources," "insider," et al, who don't want to be identified "for fear of retribution", "because they are not authorized to speak," etcetera. Why should we swallow that ? At least NYTPicker has a blog, a location, and an email! The NYTimes's ghostly unnamed sources are pure hearsay which we are asked to take on trust. Have you no shame?

Anonymous said...

Maybe NYT should revise their moderation policy to restrict subversively vulgar comments. Maybe they need to train their moderators on how to detect abusive language.

It is imperative that licensed media preserve a high bar for civility and interpersonal respect, otherwise would be costly and shameful.

michael rosenblum said...

I wrote to Diane and got an email back from The New York Times stating that the comment (55) was now posted. I have no idea why they took it down. I have written to Diane to ask. So far, nothing.

Anonymous said...

Re; `His comment is vulgar and incoherent´;

What in the world are you talking about? It seems as if you haven´t even read Rosenblum´s post.

Anonymous said...

OK, let's get serious about the NYT comment policy. Here are some questions I previously asked Clark Hoyt (non-anonymously), but got no answer:

1. Who moderates the comments? Does the NYT allow authors to moderate their own comments? ( It appears the answer to this is "yes", but they won't confirm it). Unlike other outlets the NYT actually does moderate comments in advance---comments are not just put up in the order received and then removed if inappropriate.

2. If the answer to (1) is "yes", isn't this a conflict? Authors can cherry pick which comments to post first (I know this happens) and by doing so shift the arguments to the author's favor (most readers read only the first page or so of comments). I also suspect they sometimes delay posting effective dissenting opinions to give them less exposure. Does the policy require "first posted, first published"?

3. More aggregiously, isn't it a conflict for an author to be able to choose which comments to "highlight"? I've noticed a tendency for the NYT to highlight comments that agree with the author's views over those that don't, and to the extent dissenting views are highlighted, they tend to choose the weaker ones. If you have any doubt about this, just go back and review the highlighted comments in Andy Revkin's column, particularly as regards the climate debate. It's pretty blatant.

Of course, the NYT still does not have a new Public Editor. Seems like they just want the position to quietly go away.

Reasonable people might disagree about the NYT comment policy in respect to the above; however, I can't fathom how reasonable people wouldn't agree that the policy should at least be explained, particularly in respect to the above points.

Anonymous said...

Even if The Times has hundreds of blogs, they do not amount to much meaningful discourse, thanks to the overweening control.

Anonymous said...

As to the comment concerning "who moderates the comments." Years ago, I spotted a trivial error of fact in a William Safire column. At one point in the back-and-forth about it -- at one point I was told that as it was an opinion column, Mr. Safire's opinions weren't within the bounds of editorial -- I was told that the error of fact (not opinion) had been brought to Mr. Safire's attention and that he (Safire) did not feel the error merited correction. I keep that in mind EVERY time I read the New York Times: apparently the people who write the stuff are the judges of whether mistakes were made.

Anonymous said...

how funny would if be if nytpicker were jayson blair?

Anonymous said...

@2:35, not a chance.

Anonymous said...

Here's the answer to the above question as to whether the NYT allows authors to moderate comments to their own columns. The quote is from today's blog by Paul Krugman:

"I’m going to try an experiment here. As regular readers know, a lot of comment inches on every post are taken up by the same few ranters, who say the same thing every time; it kind of degrades the experience for everyone else. But I’m not going to edit out hostile comments (and by the way, neither I nor the various other people who moderate here ever have.) What I’m going to try instead is a three-inch rule: if it takes up more than about 3 inches on my screen, I’m going to tag it as spam. I don’t know if the other moderators will follow suit, but I’m suggesting they do".

This suggests to me a strong conflict of interest which someone like Krugman is completely tone deaf to. I always knew that Krugman wrote editorial copy for the NYT Board, but now it appears that his influence extends to much, much more.