Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NYT Senior VP Takes Sides In Empire State Building Dispute, Calling Vornado Realty "An Idiot" On Twitter. (UPDATE: Christie Comments To NYTPicker!)

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:


Anonymous said...

Well, if the New York Times still had a public editor, he could weigh in on it. Any idea what ever did happen to Arthur Brisbane?


Anonymous said...

Maybe the Vornado building is closer to Christie's residence than it is to the Empire State Building.

As for Brisbane, add his name to the M.I.A. list.

Ken Cady said...

I am with the Times on this one. The Vornado idea is so silly that to make a comment such as that is almost impossible to stop.

Anonymous said...

Brisbane arrived at work the first week in August. Keller's announcement, earlier, said, "He will take a few weeks to meet us and get the lay of the land before he goes public."

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see Christie's name attached to a coherent comment from the New York Times. Instead he writes snarky tweets about the Wall Street Journal and stokes his feud with NYTPicker. Is that why they hired this guy?

Anonymous said...

He only meant, "not the smartest decision maker."
Idiot on twitter is different from a physician calling his patient idiot.

Anonymous said...

brisbane might not be writing any columns yet, but he's apparently giving interviews.


Anonymous said...

on a separate subject, check out the NYT on Ken Mehlman:

"Mr. Mehlman was in Mr. Bush’s inner circle in both presidential campaigns and ran his campaign in 2004, when the party courted Christian conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage. But Mr. Mehlman, in his work as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as head of Mr. Bush’s campaign, tended to personally avoid social issues. "

And THEN check out this blog:


start there and read the dozen or so posts before them.

Sylvia said...

Hurrah for the powers of Twitter! his actions have got people talking and I like it. What a world we live in. Tchnology is a hoot!

Hunter Walker said...

It's good to see an NYT exec actively engaging on Twitter with humor and irreverence. He's not involved in the coverage, so I'm not sure why it's a problem. The biz side has needed a little more fight in it for a while now.

Anonymous said...

The odd thing is the Times has tried to maintain a good and upstanding image for its employees, reporters and non-reporters, who use Twitter.
I'm surprised this guy is allowed to use Twitter in such an aggressive and snarky way in an official capacity for the Times.
They've reprimanded other reporters whose Tweets they do not approve of yet this guy goes unchecked. Odd indeed.