Saturday, February 19, 2005

New York Times breaks shocking industry story: Jane Mayer is the New Yorker!

In this morning's New York Times (A28) we need to note one editorial, "Time for an Accounting."

The first paragraph:

Of all the claims of an electoral mandate made by President Bush's supporters, none were as bizarre as the one offered by John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped draft the cyncial justifications for the illegal detention and torture of "unlawful combatants." "The debate is over," Mr. Yoo told The New Yorker, adding: "This issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum."

No, we're not going to comment on the opinion expressed in the editorial.

We are going to comment on the fact that Jane Mayer is not The New Yorker.

At this site, I frequently refer to the Times as though it were a person (e.g. "The Times misses the point . . .") The paper does the same ("____ told Meet the Press . . .") and I'll assume it's shorthand resulting from space demands and limitations in their reporting. (On my end, it's just half-assed, hurrying through an entry or a "systematic" problem that I'm noting.)

But I do take offense to the issue of crediting in this morning's editorial.

The editorial takes the time to pull quote (twice) from Mayer's article so apparently someone had access to it. And there is certainly space to add "Jane Mayer of" between "told" and "The New Yorker."

[Hint "way beyond" later in the editorial can be reduced be eliminating "way." The last paragrah's first sentence can find room for two more words by changing "can begin to heal the nation's image in the world" in many ways. Such as "can beging to heal the nation's world image" which drops "in the." Three words can easily be dropped from this editorial in a variety
of places. And three words pulled out allow for "Jane Mayer of" to be insterted.]

Jane Mayer is not The New Yorker. I'm glad the editorial board is apparently paying attention to The New Yorker. (It would be great if reporters working on stories already covered by The New Yorker would do the same -- as we frequently note here.)

But this is an issue of crediting people for their work.

As the Oscars approach, we'll see the usual coverage/exploration of the nominations in a variety of media, not just in the Times. And if you follow it (there's no real reason you should or shouldn't) note that best picture, the acting categories and directing will receive round table discussions and commentaries. But somehow, journalists will overlook adapted and original screenplay nominees. That's really sad, especially in the print world where one would expect writers to at least be aware of the importance of writing.

But that ingrained attitude that the picture wrote itself is something that's apparently going to be with us for years to come. Fine. Hollywood reporting is largely puff pieces and sloppy writing. (Note to Dallas, they finally do their correction to last Saturday's Andy Garcia story and note that an "editing error" is responsible for Godfather II being used -- twice, though the correction doesn't point that out -- when the film in question was Godfather III. Also note, there has still been no correction for referring to Sinead O'Connor as "Mr. O'Connor.")

The unsigned editorials, regardless of what views or opinions they offer, are supposed to be among the finest writing in the paper. I'm not addressing the issue of reporting, I'm speaking merely of the grace/style present in the editorial.

Jane Mayer's article for The New Yorker ("Outsourcing Torture") is one that many have noted.
We've noted it, Democracy Now! has noted it, BuzzFlash has noted it, Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder have noted it on The Majority Report, Common Dreams has posted the article, Truth Out has posted the article, noted it, Talk Left (either Jeralyn Merritt or T. Christopher Kelley) has noted it, Adam Miles has noted it at San Francisco Bay Area IndyMedia has noted it, Jaypeesmith of Black...MyStory has noted it, Gregory Pratt has noted it at The Liberal Igloo (and Offshoring Digest has noted Pratt's noting of the article), G-J of Democratic Underground has noted it (that's actually "G_J" but with the link the underscore won't appear so it's "G-J" outside of the parenthetical), Peninsula Peace and Justice Center has noted the article, redjade has noted it at Ireland's Independent Media Centre, The Editors at The Poor Man have noted it, Robyn E. Blumner (in her op-ed at the St. Petersburg Times) has noted it, Bob Herbert has noted in his op-ed for the New York Times (Feb. 11th), Jude Nagurney Camwell has noted at Iddybud, artappraiser at The Agonist has noted it, . . .* There's a reason it's been widely noted: it's an important article. And everyone noting it has been able to note the author of "Outsourcing Torture." That the New York Times editorial board feels they can pull quote twice from it but not credit the journalist who wrote the piece is very sad.

The practice of using a periodical's title (and ommitting the name of the writer) is widespread (and again, it's done here all the time). But I honestly expect a little more from the editorials in the New York Times.

Jane Mayer's work deserves to be noted and the Times (see, I did it again) deserves credit for noting that an important piece of reporting ran in The New Yorker. They also deserve a slap on the wrist for not noting the author. In terms of practical use, they've done their readers a disservice since, if the reader is unfamiliar with "Outsourcing Torture," there's no way for a reader to look up the article (twice) quoted. I've checked the online version of the editorial and assumed that possibly they provided a hyperlink to Mayer's article. They don't.

Someone who is fresh to the article and coming across it in today's editorial for the first time will have no idea to which article the paper is referring. Since the editorial twice quotes the article, a reader might feel this article is worth reading. (It is.) But how they're supposed to locate it from the information provided in the Times is a mystery.

By omitting Jane Mayer's name, they not only strip her of the credit she deserves, they fail to provide the reader with the information they may need. It's lose-lose. The Times (I did it again) needs to better serve their readers and they also need to give credit where it is due.
For the record, Jane Mayer, of The New Yorker, wrote "Outsourcing Torture."

[*The use of ". . ." is to suggest that others have noted it. If you saw it somewhere not listed, please e-mail the site and we will credit it -- provided it's not some right-wing attack on the article or Mayer. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Unfiltered has noted it because they do a great job -- my opinion -- of calling attention to articles for their listeners. However, I've not been able to listen to Unfiltered, due to work demands, lately. But many people and organizations have noted this article and they've been able to credit Jane Mayer for writing it. Why the editorial board of the Times doesn't is a mystery.]