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Times Promises Fewer Editors; It Shows

January 18, 2017 at 9:52 am

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A public memo issued yesterday by the top two editors at the New York Times promised "fewer editors at The Times."

To judge by this morning's newspaper, the plan has already been implemented.

At least two Times articles could have benefited from some more editing.

The first appears atop the arts section. Online, the headline is "Museum Trustee, a Trump Donor, Supports Groups That Deny Climate Change." It's a long, one-sided attack on the American Museum of Natural History for the sin of allowing a conservative donor. Rebekah Mercer, to serve as one of 49 members of the board of trustees.

The Times article includes this sentence about the museum's president, Ellen V. Futter: "Ms. Futter would not comment on the calls for Ms. Mercer to step down or what brought her to the board, declining to discuss the activities of a specific trustee."

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Sulzberger Jr. Issues Editorial Denouncing Trump Nepotism

January 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

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The New York Times has an editorial condemning President-elect Trump for naming his son in law, Jared Kushner, as a senior White House adviser. It cites "the real dangers posed by nepotism." (The Times, of all people, should know.)

"There's a good reason for anti-nepotism laws," the Times editorial says, warning that when relatives are hired, "they undermine the public's faith that important posts are being filled with the best possible candidates."

Also, "it upends delicate dynamics, as senior staff members keep their mouths shut rather than contradict a trusted relative of their boss."

The concerns the Times editorial raises about nepotism in government might well also apply to, say, a publicly traded company. The Times editorial draws no distinction between nepotism in government and in corporate America.

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Smearing Judith Rodin

January 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

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In an egregious example of bad journalism, the New York Times kicks Judith Rodin on her way out as president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

A news article by David Gelles of the Times reports:

In recent years, the foundation has focused on the themes of "resilience" and "inclusive economies." That has resulted in programs aimed at establishing "resilience officers" in 100 cities to focus on disaster relief and a plan that is sending 100,000 inner-city students to see the musical "Hamilton."

These efforts have struck critics as public relations stunts more than meaningful agents of change. And Ms. Rodin has drawn fire for spending too much time with corporate partners and not enough time with the recipients of grants.

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Trump's Accountability

January 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

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New York Times columnist David Brooks writes:

Donald Trump doesn't think in that way, either. He is anti-system. As my "PBS NewsHour" colleague Mark Shields points out, he has no experience being accountable to anybody, to a board of directors or an owner.

To say that Mr. Trump "has no experience being accountable to anybody" is a falsehood so blatant that if Mr. Trump himself had uttered it the Times itself would probably have inserted the words "falsely," as it has taken to doing in an unusually aggressive attempt to fact-check the president-elect.

As a television personality, Mr. Trump has had to be accountable to network executives; if his show did not get ratings, it would be canceled.

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Blame NY Times For UN Vote

December 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

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"Blame the New York Times for the Disgraceful Anti-Israel U.N. Security Council Vote" is the headline over my latest piece for the Algemeiner. You can check it out by clicking here.


Lost In Manhattan

December 20, 2016 at 8:37 am

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A Times business section story about what prosecutors allege was fraud at a New York-based hedge fund, Platinum Partners, reports, "Located a few blocks from Central Park, Platinum, founded in 2003, made a splash early on with some of its investments."

Central Park is a big place. The Times formulation "located a few blocks from Central Park" is maddeningly imprecise. As writing, it fails to convey much useful information about this business. Was the office of the business located in Harlem? On the Upper East Side? On the Upper West Side? If the Times is going to bother to tell us where the hedge fund was situated, it would be more helpful to readers if it actually told us where the office was, rather than give vague indications about how far it is from a large park.


Tipping Point

December 14, 2016 at 10:26 am

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The lead article in this week's Times food section is by Julia Moskin and reports on adjustments made by restaurants that have stopped tipping and have instead included the full cost of service in the prices listed on the menu. The article includes this paragraph:

Instead of expecting customers to tip the people who wait on them, tip-free restaurants pay all employees wages that reflect their skill and seniority. The customer pays a fixed amount, stated in writing (in menu prices), as in virtually every other kind of consumer business, from Nordstrom to Netflix to The New York Times.

It stopped me in my tracks, because, as a paying home-delivery subscriber to the New York Times, about every four weeks my newspaper is accompanied by a plea for tips, along with an envelope, from my home-delivery service provider. Does Ms. Moskin subscribe to the Times? Does her editor? Do they tip the person who delivers the newspaper to them?

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Correction of the Day

September 21, 2016 at 9:16 am

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From the New York Times op-ed page:

An Op-Ed essay on Tuesday about relief for refugees included the phrase, "In our experience, militant violence is vanishingly rare." Because of a miscommunication, the phrase, which was added by an editor, was published without final approval of the authors.

I actually liked the op-ed piece, which was by the mayors of New York, London, and Paris and which was pro-immigrant. But the worst kind of editing is the kind that inserts factual inaccuracies into an article without the approval of the author, especially when the inaccuracy appears insensitive to terrorist victims. The statistical rarity of the militant violence is little consolation to those killed or maimed by it, or to their friends and family members.


Algemeiner to Honor Lipsky

August 29, 2016 at 9:51 pm

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Much of my New York Times criticism has moved over to the Algemeiner, a publication that also happens to be honoring my longtime colleague and former partner in the New York Sun, Seth Lipsky, at a benefit in New York on September 15. More details and tickets are here. It looks like it will be fun.


New York Times Ads Aim at Geriatric Audience

August 29, 2016 at 9:48 pm

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Ads in the print edition of the New York Times that are aimed at people who have trouble walking, reading, or going to the bathroom are the topic of an article I wrote recently for Heat Street. Please check it out by clicking here.


Friedman's Flaw

August 10, 2016 at 8:14 am

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Thomas Friedman has a column on the danger of "menacing" language and "toxic incitement" in politics. He concludes it by calling Donald Trump "a disgusting human being." I agree with Mr. Friedman about the desirability of avoiding toxic incitement and menacing language, but the Times columnist might be a little more persuasive if he could find a way to write about the issue without himself committing the very sins against which he warns.

Mr. Friedman says the thinking that led to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination was: "The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don't you? We kill them." He means to warn against Trump's language against Hillary Clinton. But the illegitimate/threat to the nation/Nazi line of criticism is often made against Mr. Trump, in the columns of the Times itself, a fact that seems totally to have escaped Mr. Friedman.


Trump and Objectivity

August 8, 2016 at 11:02 am

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An above-the-fold, front-page column by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times argues that if a working journalist believes that Donald Trump "cozies up to anti-American dictators," it justifies throwing out usual standards of journalistic objectivity. Funny how this suspension of the usual rules applies to Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin, but not to Barack Obama and the Castro brothers of Cuba or the ayatollahs of Iran, or, for that matter, to Hillary Clinton and the Russia "reset" button. It's almost as if the usual standards of journalistic objectivity don't apply. No wonder that is what the column is advocating.


Donald Trump Diet

August 8, 2016 at 9:34 am

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For a fine example of media bias in action, see this New York Times article on Donald Trump's fondness for "junk food":

Mr. Trump's presidential campaign is improvised, undisciplined, rushed and self-indulgent.

And so is his diet....

He prefers burgers and meatloaf, Caesar salads and spaghetti, See's Candies and Diet Coke. And he shuns tea, coffee and alcohol.

How is shunning tea, coffee, and alcohol — or for that matter, even choosing to drink Diet Coke rather than the full-calorie version — evidence of being "undisciplined...and self-indulgent"? The Times doesn't say, probably because the Times would find some way to hurl insults at Mr. Trump no matter what he eats or drinks. The underlying reality has no bearing on what the paper writes.

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Dalio Responds

July 28, 2016 at 7:26 pm

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The chairman and chief investment officer at Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio, has posted a response to a front-page New York Times article that was critical of the firm and its culture. He writes:

we again find ourselves in the position of being left with no choice but to respond to sensationalistic and inaccurate stories, both to make clear what is true and to do our part in fighting against the growing trend of media distortion. To let such significant mischaracterizations of our business stand would be unfair to our hard-working employees and valued clients who understand the reality of our culture and values.

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Maddening Modifying Phrases

July 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

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A Times article about a Los Angeles lawyer, John B. Quinn, a founder of the Quinn Emanuel law firm, has the dubious distinction of including two consecutive paragraphs that begin with maddeningly imprecise modifying phrases.

The Times writes:

Born in Virginia, Mr. Quinn's family moved to Connecticut when he was 2, and the proximity to New York made him a museum enthusiast.

The next paragraph begins:

Raised Mormon, the Quinns relocated to Utah when John was 12.

What is this article attempting to communicate? Was Mr. Quinn born in Virginia? Or was his entire family born there?

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