Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Posted An Item About Dave Anderson's Steinbrenner Column. Then We Took It Down. Here's What Happened.

We posted something a little while ago. Reconsidered. Took it down. Did we break the "rules" of the blogosphere? Supposedly. Did we do the right thing? Yes. It was kinda dumb, and we didn't want it hanging around.

UPDATE: Commenters are making fair points. Here's what happened.

Late this afternoon, we posted an item making fun of a lede by Dave Anderson in tomorrow's paper, about George Steinbrenner. It was quickly pointed out to us that Anderson is in his 80's -- a distinguished sports columnist with an extraordinary history and a Pulitzer Prize -- and that the lede was in keeping with his personal writing style. We didn't know any of that. We should have. Our mistake.

We took it down, after it had been up only a few minutes. Maybe not the smoothest move, and we know it probably cost us some credibility with our readers, but we'd rather pay that price than leave the item up with our name behind it. If we've lost readers as a result, fair enough. But we hope you'll stick around.


Anonymous said...

Good for you to admit your mistake?, folly?, lack of wisdom?, error? But since you are the "Nitpicker" and,
presumably, reporter(s), one feels you have a journalistic obligation to
detail what it was you removed and why#

Anonymous said...

This is why people at The Times don't want to deal with you. They own up to their mistakes. They don't rewrite history. Your comments are often useful, but you should stop being anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but anonymous has it wrong: "This is why people at The Times don't want to deal with you. They own up to their mistakes. They don't rewrite history. Your comments are often useful, but you should stop being anonymous."

The Times consistently shows a refusal to admit error -- and when I say admit error, I mean someone at the Times saying "Yes, we were wrong. Period." It's always an "apology" filled with caveats and excuses and bullshit.

Want examples? They're all over. Read the Public Editor columns and see how many times EXACTLY what I've just described occurs.

Anonymous said...

This is what's wrong with the Internet. People are so quick with the trigger to criticize and mock, without puting things into context or doing research. I've been reading Dave Anderson's work for more than three decades... Wonder if you bothered to look at anything more than the one you chose to criticize?

Roberto said...

Seriously, Anonymous 8:51, were you joking?

As Anonymous 8:58 said ... and NYTpicker has pointed out numerous times, and even the Times's ombudsman-of-the-week has admitted, the Times does not "do" admission of culpability.

Anonymous said...

So I just saw the post in question while perusing my Google Reader feeds. I didn't know who Dave Anderson is until I saw this apology post.

I've gotta say, there have been occasions when this blog has exposed some ridiculous stuff at the NY Times. Then there are occasions like this where it feels like this blog is desperate for something--anything--to complain about. What the hell was wrong with that lede? It doesn't take a 5th grader to find the proper voice to read that in ("he *was* a nice guy").

Jesus, this is just like that time this blog got its panties in a wad because over that picture of the comp sci guys where somebody had written "fsck" on the chalkboard. That did a lot of unnecessary damage this blogs credibility. And now this. Christ!

Here's a piece of advice the next time the nytpicker feels the need to generate content: read a David Brooks editorial! Nitpick that honky momo drivel. It's such easy pickings, it should almost be against the rules!

swingandamiss said...

"...but we'd rather pay that price than leave the item up with our name behind it."

...says the anonymous blogger. Good one.

Roberto said...

"This is why people at The Times don't want to deal with you ... you should stop being anonymous."

... says the anonymous commenter. Good one.

Anonymous said...

Come on, guys. It's a good blog. They pay attention and their posts are usually thoughtful. It even manages to be very funny sometimes. Why not leave it alone on his one mistake, and move on? They probably felt guilty that they were trashing an old man's reputation. I would have too.

--From an unnamed NYT editor who looks at the site every day, who prays he's not on it, but who's glad it exists.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't that Nytpicker took it down. It's that it took it down without acknowledging that it ever existed and without explaining why it was taken down.

To do otherwise, makes it look like you're scrubbing the site and trying to hide something. You should have done to begin with what you did after you were criticized:

Write a note saying that you have taken down an item -- and explain why. And give a link to the initial item in case someone really wants to see what it said and whether they agreed with your initial assessment or agreed with your decision to take it down.

Whatever the platform -- newspapers, blogs, TV, etc. -- the whole point is about giving people information -- not hiding it or trying to sweep something under the rug and hope no one notices.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the original post, but I applaud your decision to retract. I am a journalist, and I know how hard (and risky) it is to say "mea culpa." It shows guts and principles to publically admit any error. I trust you more for it.

The NYTimes has a God complex which prevents it from full and frank apology for its own errors and bad taste. This is one reason why I stopped subscribing to it. The other main reason being that the content now seems exclusively targeted at a readership of UWS zillionaires and wannabes. Hence the offensive, unintentionally self-parodying fetishization of luxury property ("What You Get For $12 Million"), fantasy food and travel ("Gorging on Truffles in Tuscany"), and impractical, overpriced fashion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @843AM --

It seems to me Nytpicker did exactly what you want. They admitted the post, told us what it said, and the reason they took it down. Pretty transparent to me.

When the New York Times makes a correction, it changes the original story to reflect the correction, so you never get to see the original mistake. They admit the mistake, fix it and moving on, just like Nytpicker.

Anonymous said...

re: Anonymous 8:43. I know it violates the so-called rules of the Internet, but every newspaper for decades has removed stories between editions that have either changed or become outdated or were just plain wrong without publishing a note acknowledging that the story ever existed. Or, if being updated, including the original text. It's time the web started incorporating some of the old-fashioned, but time-tested, rules of real journalism.

Anonymous said...

What rules? Sure copyright, privacy, decency, libel, hate-speech and cyber-security laws are enforceable, anonymous or not, and but absent of a legal violation, there are no protections for internet users against information abuse. That's why media literacy for all ages is the only way next gen won't misunderestimate the cost of smoking them out. Anyhow, @8:10, what's your beef with anonymity, you just wanna ID who to heckle in person?

Anonymous said...

anonymous July 14, 2010 8:54 AM:

Good God, it was like reading my own post. I've been railing against these sorts of "articles" for a long time. Absolutely, my respect for the Times is just about gone. It seems mostly to exist only as a conceit for the trust-funded to go to so they can claim to "work" for a living.

I hope the poor thing finally gives up the ghost, along with all the other papers. And then we can see what those crackerjacks who steal content all day long end up doing. "Um, yeah, hi, government type, I'm a blogger. Can I get a... hello? Hello?"

It'll almost be worth the collapse of democracy and transparency in government to see the bloggers start complaining about how hard it is to do real reporting when someone else isn't the sous chef.

And I post anonymously because newspapers won't hire people who speak their minds and put a name to it. Or anyone else. Troublemakers get reprimanded.

LongTimeReader said...

You call yourself a team of journalists (who specialize in keeping track of the Times) and don't know who Dave Anderson is? I'm actually not a great fan of his, but knowing something about the history of the institution you specialize in would seem to be a job requirement!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, what NYTPicker says about press hiring is true. Journalists who investigate the media or other journalists, or even raise questions of ethics and "best practices" with editors, may soon find themselves working at Walmart. So hooray for anonymity, and shame on the NYTimes for refusing to answer NYTPicker's questions. What hypocrisy, when the Times expects us to accept "anonymous sources" and sources "who requested not to be attributed" in so many of their articles.

I wrote for a major newspaper under my name, but I have no trouble with reading and learning from anonymous authors or bloggers. What counts in journalism is not the byline, but accuracy, relevance, cogency, logic, honesty, and style. Writing anonymously is the true test of fine journalism, because your work stand or falls by its quality. So many famous but mediocre or biased journalists coast on their name, and their association with a big publication. If they wrote anonymously, we might well find them boring or pretentious, and wonder how they deserve a six-figure salary. The only writers who should always put their name to their work are those who peddle highly subjective matter: critics, opinion columnists, and Editorialists. Because in order to weigh and parse their statements, we need to know their cumulative track record.

Anonymous said...

Hard news sources have to put up with the standard journalistic treatment of getting labelled kooky, quirky, blowsy, bloated, jaded, ditzy, sassy, gassy, spunky, dim, fuckable, jerkable, or anything that makes a mockery of the hard-won right to speak because reporters are trained to think that the way to push back is as a fulminating contrarian bingeing on ad hominem and mistrust to fuel an unwarranted outcry. Inevitably, real world sources will hold back, the way the NYT have held back on writing anything whatsoever ON Rahm Emanuel.

Anonymous said...

This isn't an isolated incident. I've seen at least 4 other deleted articles before. But this may be the first acknowledgement that they play by different rules than they enforce.

The NYT may not acknowledge every error because, well, they may not think they're errors. But they leave it all hanging out there.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous July 15, 2010 7:19 AM said...

The NYT may not acknowledge every error because, well, they may not think they're errors. But they leave it all hanging out there.

Oh just stop already. You're engaging in circular logic. If the Times didn't "leave it all hanging out" it means they would have corrected it. How many people read an article a week after it's published? Not very many. And look at what the Times corrects mostly: misspellings of names, incorrect addresses, and other relatively minor mistakes. Okay, some dead guy had three sons, not two, as reported in the obit of Jan. 22. Fine. BFD.

The inverse relationship is clear: the more embarrassing an admission of error would be, the more couched the declaration of error becomes. All the big-ticket corrections and clarifications are filled with caveats and excuses. It's like everyone at the Times is The Fonz and is incapable of saying the word "wrong."

I once ended up in an 11 week fight with the Times over a simple error of fact in a Safire column. It eventually grew to take in the public editor's department and the editorial department. At one point, I was told that Safire had been consulted and that he didn't feel the error merited correction.

Got that? Do you understand how defective such thinking (sic) is? Just think about what that says about how dysfunctional the Times must be. The people who -- in theory -- actually run the paper, are so afraid of one columnist that they have to go, hat in hand, to the columnist and submit a request for whether it's okay to correct him on an error of fact.

That cravenness shows in many ways throughout the paper. Right now, the best example of it is the non-coverage of the BP Oil Spill. What a lackluster half-hearted effort at coverage. Where the hell is the continuous front-page presence? Why no tiny icon for readers to go to a separate page for continuous updates? It's a natural disaster of epic scale and it's being treated like a tire fire in Hoboken.

the dispenser said...

I'm also amazed they wouldn't know who Dave Anderson is. Now, I read the column, and I am trying to figure out what they would have made fun of.

Anonymous said...

Don’t give a damn about Anderson, or his Pulitzer or whomever’s next on his mourning list.