Robert H. "Bob" Christie, the NYT's senior vice president for corporate communications, has used Twitter to lash out at the central figure in a metro story in today's NYT -- declaring that Vornado Realty Trust is an "idiot" for wanting to build a skyscraper near the Empire State Building.
Christie's comments come only a few months after a NYT reporter, Hiroko Tabuchi, was sharply criticized by NYT's then-Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, for using Twitter to ridicule Toyota, a company she covered.
"Speed is everything," Hoyt remarked of social media networks like Twitter, "and attitude sometimes trumps values like accuracy and restraint."
It's true that Christie works for the corporate end of the NYT Company, and isn't subject to the same rules that govern reporters. Still, it's unsettling to see a top NYT executive take such a public position on a matter that remains undecided by regulatory agencies and the courts.
The basic issue is whether Vornado Realty Trust, a major NYC developer, should be allowed to go ahead with a planned midtown skyscraper that some contend would alter the city's skyline in unappealing ways.
Today's NYT story by Charles V. Bagli -- linked to by Christie in his tweet -- takes no position on the matter; the NYT editorial page has also been silent on the topic.
But Christie -- who prefers to be called "Bob" -- has often used his Twitter feed to express edgy views, and sometimes about his former employer, The Wall Street Journal.
For example, when former WSJ business reporter Peter Lattman left the paper to join the NYT, Christie tweeted the news with a snarky swipe at his former employer:
WSJ gave up on business news. Now great reporters leave. Shock! Welcome Peter. http://bit.ly/bbK28n via @addthis
But today's tweet went beyond boosterism for his new bosses and took sides in a city debate that promises to continue for years. That may not disqualify him for anything -- he doesn't cover the story, after all -- but it strikes us as a personal point of view having no place in the debate, or on a Twitter feed from a NYT executive.
Doesn't the NYT public-relations department have better things to do than tweeting its opinions on the news?
It also seems ill-advised to use words like "idiot" to describe a major NYC real-estate company that has undoubtedly dropped millions of dollars in advertising on his employer over the years. Dontcha think, Bob?
Oh, and Bob, the skyscraper isn't going to be "next to" the Empire State Building. It will be 900 feet away -- which is further apart than Cordoba House will be from Ground Zero.
UPDATE: NYT spokesman Bob Christie, in direct contradiction of the NYT's official policy, has issued a statement to The NYTPicker in response to the above post.
HEY NYT WYT -- I LIVE HERE!" Christie said, in reply to The NYTPicker's earlier post. His comments were made via Twitter.
On April 7, Christie issued this official policy statement to The NYTPicker on behalf of the NYT:
“It is the policy of The New York Times not to respond to bloggers or journalists who refuse to identify themselves and/or their affiliation.”
It is unclear at this time whether Christie's comments represent a permanent change in NYT policy.
Here's the original Christie twitter post: