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Secret Search for Public Editor

February 22, 2016 at 10:49 pm

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A Times report on the news that the public editor, Margaret Sullivan, will become a columnist of the Washington Post includes this language: "Ms. Sullivan assumed her role at The Times in 2012, and her tenure was scheduled to end in August." August 2015? August 2016? It isn't clear from the Times article.

The article goes on:

In a memo to the staff, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The Times's publisher, praised Ms. Sullivan, saying she had "ushered the position into a new age."

He said that she would remain at the paper for "a number of weeks" and that the search for a successor was underway. "We will be in a position to name Margaret's successor very soon," he wrote.

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Errant Tweet

February 22, 2016 at 10:30 pm

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A tweet from the New York Times World Twitter account included a photo and the line, "These women are condemned by conservatives for riding bikes in Gaza." While the idea of sexist "conservatives" may reinforce the preexisting ideas of the Times liberal readers and play well on social media, the article itself doesn't include the word "conservative." The people objecting to the bicycle riding are adherents of what the Times describes as "the Islamist Hamas movement." That might be as easily and accurately described as Islamic radicalism as conservatism.

Another word that doesn't appear in the article is terrorist. The Times refers to "a fighter in the militant group Islamic Jihad" and to "the 2014 war between Gaza militants and Israel." To the Times, they aren't terrorists, but militants, even when the groups in question are listed as terrorist groups by the U.S. government.


Falsely Branding Bush

February 22, 2016 at 10:06 pm

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A Times article by Nicholas Confessore and Sarah Cohen appears under the derisive headline, "How Jeb Bush Spent $130 Million Running For President With Nothing To Show For It." It includes this passage:

Branding: $88,387

Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Mr. Bush, and then his campaign directly, retained 30 Point Strategies, a public relations company in Bethesda, Md., specializing in "thought leadership" and "brand journalism," according to the firm's website. But in the end, the most lasting label of Mr. Bush was supplied by Mr. Trump: "low energy."

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Tom Friedman's Homicidal Fantasy

February 18, 2016 at 9:22 am

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Amid a Thomas Friedman column claiming that "it's an outrage that we can't control our border" comes this passage:

Ted Cruz speaks of our government in the same way as the anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who says we should shrink government "to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." (Am I a bad person if I hope that when Norquist slips in that bathtub and has to call 911, no one answers?)

Mr. Norquist responded on Twitter with characteristic grace:

@NYTimesFriedman, an advocate for higher taxes, writes that he wishes me dead. I take that as a high compliment. I wish him a long life.

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Israeli Kibbutz

February 11, 2016 at 9:47 am

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A Times article about the socialist senator from Vermont who is running for president as a Democrat, Bernie Sanders, reports that he "even spent time on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1960s." As William Safire points out on Twitter, the formulation "Israeli kibbutz" is a redundancy. Call the Squad Squad, as Mr. Safire might say.

Some might argue that the word "Israeli" helps people who don't know what a kibbutz is. But my view is that those people can look it up in a dictionary, and that the paper needn't be edited for the most ignorant readers. If the Times editors really think a definition is necessary, a more elegant way to do it would be with a parenthetical phrase — "a kibbutz, an Israeli collective farm, in the 1960s" — rather than the inartful way the paper wound up doing it.


Wall Street To Washington

February 9, 2016 at 8:58 am

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Andrew Ross Sorkin's column today, which appears under the headline "Roadblocks en Route From Wall Street to Washington," has some problems.

Mr. Sorkin writes: "Henry Paulson, the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, was the last Wall Street executive to be appointed Treasury secretary." Not accurate. The current Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, is a former Wall Street executive, having earned a bonus of $940,000 for his work at Citigroup in 2008 on top of his base compensation of $1.1 million.

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Spike Lee Interview

February 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

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The Times has an interview with NYU professor and movie director Spike Lee. The paper describes him as "thoughtful, chatty and intense." From the interview:

Q. There seems to be no common ground right now. Every time Obama talks about guns, sales spike.

A. Or there's a mass shooting. After San Bernardino, they went up.

It's called scare tactics. I don't think anything good comes out of people using fear, whether it be Mussolini or Hitler.

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Wrong Silverman

January 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm

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A photo cutline in the Times refers to "Rabbi Sarah Silverman, right, of Women of the Wall." The rabbi's correct name is Susan Silverman. She has a sister named Sarah, but that Silverman is a writer/actress/comedian, not a rabbi.


Ski Country Housing Crisis

January 25, 2016 at 9:37 am

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A Times dispatch from Breckenridge, Colorado, reports on what the article calls "a housing crisis in ski country":

Local officials and housing experts say it is a symptom of widening economic inequality, one that is especially sharply felt in tiny resort towns hemmed in by beautiful but undevelopable public land. While the wealthiest can afford $5 million ski homes and $120-a-day lift tickets, others work two jobs and sleep in shifts to get by.

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January 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

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A book review in today's Times asks irritably, "Must we read, for the umpteenth time, about the salubrious effects of faith?"

No, no one "must," not even this Times reviewer, who could have, and maybe should have, chosen to review some other book if she was so hostile to the subject matter of this one.


Gay Arabic Speaker

January 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm

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From a dispatch from Jerusalem in the Times foreign section, under the headline, "Arrest of Leftist Israeli Activist Underlines Political Split":

Here in Israel, it is part of a toxic tug of war over the boundaries of political discourse amid mounting international criticism of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. The dwindling left is frequently vilified as traitorous, as empowered right-wingers create ever-narrower definitions of Zionism. And the tactics are getting uglier.

Mr. Nawi, a gay Arabic speaker in his 60s and a prominent member of an Israeli-Palestinian rights group called Taayush, was not caught in a sting by the security apparatus for either Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

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January 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm

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Hardly a day goes by without a reminder that personnel decisions at the Times happen very very very slowly.

Item: Mark Bittman, in a farewell piece for the Times Insider, reports: "In 1994, Trish Hall, then the Living section's editor, asked me if I wanted to write a column for the new Dining section. Duh — who would say no to that? Three years later (The Times doesn't often move quickly) The Minimalist was born."

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Oxfam Wealth Inequality

January 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm

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"Wealth Inequality Rising Fast, Oxfam Says, Faulting Tax Havens" is the headline over a Times dispatch on the front of the business section. Not a mention of the fact that Oxfam, as a non-profit, is itself a "tax haven" of a sort. Nor, for all the words in the story, is any space or attention given to any source or organization that might suggest that the inequality is less a problem than the advocacy group claims it is. If there's any difference between the Times article and what an Oxfam press release would say, it escapes me. Okay, it was a holiday weekend. But if reporters and editors are going to just play along with these holiday weekend press releases by practicing stenography rather than skeptical, good journalism, what is the point of paying for the newspaper rather than just signing up for the Oxfam publicity list?



January 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

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A Times dispatch from Iowa suggests that snowshoeing is some sort of luxury activity. "While he has yet to shoot anything during this campaign, unlike Mr. Cruz, it is probably also unlikely that Mr. Rubio will be shot on film doing anything really fancy-pants, like windsurfing or snowshoeing, anytime soon," the Times says.

This seems like a sentence that was edited in Manhattan or Washington, rather than somewhere like rural Maine or New Hampshire or Western Massachusetts, where snowshoes aren't "fancy-pants" but rather just a practical way of getting to your traps or maple taps or ice fishing hole or outhouse or wood pile or cabin if you can't afford a snowmobile or if the dirt road hasn't been plowed.


Suspicions About Right-Wing Plotting

January 11, 2016 at 9:39 am

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One of the most strange news articles ever appears on the front of the business section of today's Times. It begins:

WASHINGTON — It has been nearly 18 years since Hillary Clinton used the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" to describe the conservative forces arrayed against her husband's administration. But the suspicion about right-wing plotting remains as current on the left as, well, Mrs. Clinton.

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