Friday, January 05, 2007

Shocked! No, not really...

From the "I'm shocked - shocked" department, via CWN:

Jan. 5, 2007 ( - By John-Henry Westen

The New York Times is seriously contemplating removing its public editor (ombudsman) position, which was instituted in 2003 to be an independent voice for the public within the paper in order to maintain credibility, LifeSiteNews reports. The new move comes in the wake of current public editor Byron Calame's confirmation that LifeSiteNews was correct in asserting that the Times made a major error in reporting on criminal penalties for abortion in El Salvador.

The first recorded mention of the intention to axe the position was raised at a December 15 New York Times meeting when executive editor Bill Keller raised the idea. That meeting was held about a week after Calame began asking very uncomfortable questions of senior editors at the Times, and receiving in response terse replies rejecting his warnings that the NYT magazine had been caught in a serious error which deserved correction.

With information from contacts in El Salvador, LifeSiteNews had pointed out that the cover article in the NYT magazine of April 6 claimed falsely that some women in El Salvador were imprisoned for thirty years for illegal abortions. LifeSiteNews published the full court ruling in the case, which showed that rather than being jailed for a clandestine abortion, as the Times magazine asserted - the case study cited actually concerned infanticide of a full-term baby.

Calame describes his struggle with the editors of the Times in the pages of the paper saying, "After the English translation of the court ruling became available on Dec. 8, I asked Mr. Marzorati (NYT magazine editor) if he continued to have 'no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts' in the article. His e-mail response seemed to ignore the ready availability of the court document containing the findings from the trial before the three-judge panel and its sentencing decision."

Calame also struggled with the Times' standards editor. "I asked Mr. Whitney if he intended to suggest that the office of the publisher bring the court's findings to the attention of those readers who received the 'no reason to doubt' response, or that a correction be published," writes Calame. He notes that no decision to issue a correction had been made despite the overwhelming evidence.

Soon after these exchanges the December 15 meeting occurred at which the proposal to eliminate the public-editor position was raised.

In his December 31 publication of the article exposing the NYT magazine story errors, Calame concludes, "One thing is clear to me, at this point, about the key example of Carmen Climaco. Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect."

Calame told LifeSiteNews that his personal position at the Times was not in question since his "non-renewable, two-year contract to serve as public editor ends May 8, 2007."

LifeSiteNews contacted Times spokesman Abbe Serphos for comment, but she did not respond by press time.

Hmmm... Journalistic malpractice at the NYT? As I said at the top, I'm shocked - shocked to hear of it. No...wait... I'm not. Here's hoping the continued negative attention their thinly-veiled political maneuverings are getting for them eventually forces them to retreat to some level of respectable journalism. I'm not expecting to hold my breath for it though. Sadly.