Wednesday, 22 October 2008

New York Times Credibility Stress.

In times like these, people have got to believe in your brand. A NYT subscription is easy to cut from one's personal budget (and lest we forget, the NYT Co. does still earn about 30% of its revenue from circulation) and you surely want info you can believe in.

I fear an awful consumer tipping point (again that phrase) for consumer confidence in the NYT.

JB, JM, and now this: a NYT writer distorting a survey’s findings to fit his theme, contrary to The Times’s standards of integrity. (Oh yeah, I liked a correction in the IHT yesterday that got the number of a loan wrong - it was US$500 million, not US$5oo billion as previously reported. Please. Coffees on me.)

October 21, 2008

Editors’ Note
An article in the Itineraries pages last Tuesday reported about the increasing stress on business travelers, and cited the findings of “Stress in America,” an annual survey of the American Psychological Association. That survey found that economic factors were the leading causes of stress levels in 2008, but it did not say, as the article did, that “the crisis on Wall Street was the No. 1 cause of anxiety,” nor did participants in the survey say they felt most vulnerable to stress “in the office and on a business trip.”
The survey included data from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, 2008, a period of volatility on Wall Street, but none of the questions in the association’s survey referred to Wall Street or any economic crises. Participants were not asked how business travel affected their stress levels or where they felt most vulnerable to stress. The author of the article distorted the survey’s findings to fit his theme, contrary to The Times’s standards of integrity.
The article also quoted incorrectly from a comment by Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Wilmette, Ill., who told the author that, “In my 20 years of practice I’ve never seen such anxiety among my patients,” not “among my banking and business patients.” While Dr. Molitor does have patients in banking and business, she did not single them out as being more anxious than her other patients. (
Go to Article)

OK, those are the facts, no big deal you might think. You read the correction, if you spot it, appreciate their frank and timely response and move on.

But here's the damage.

Gawker reporting, love 'em or hate 'em, and the comments from Gawker I like to post because I think they do often reflect undercurrents about the NYT's brand perception (and my fear of this tipping point), follow below, but it's interesting to note how many of the comments from Gawker readers fit into Slate's criticisms of the NYT's back of the book feature people coming up with false trends. Gawker is Gawker but Slate is in fact owned by the WP.

And both, I am sure, are read by young, impressionable media buyers and planners within agencies. Chinese water torture...

I pick up a range of opinion that Thursday and Sunday NYT's are full of soft-news rubbish. That's 2 out of 7 days of that 30% circulation revenue.

The NYT people I speak to just don't seem to have any sense of this weakness within their brand perception. We're the NYT, Krugman has a Nobel Prize for God's sake, we're invincible. A must read, a must advertising buy.

There is no such thing as a must read and a must advertising buy when you're dealing with people who don't read much and buy advertising.

The Times ran a special editors' note this morning accusing one of its freelancers of twisting the truth "to fit his theme, contrary to the Times' standards of integrity." The writer, Paul Burnham Finney, apparently distorted an American Psychological Association survey to reflect his article's thesis that business travel and the Wall Street meltdown are stressing people out more than anything else. In fact, the survey showed the economy generally is stressing people out. Also, he rewrote a therapist's quote to also be more specific in the same way, the paper said. Having developed something of a history running false stories, the Times seems to have been eager to get out in front of this one, running its correction barely one week after the original article came out — quite a speedy timeframe for deciding one of your contributors is a liar.

GAWKER COMMENTS (BTW, you can skip the first rather crude comment if you like but I'll bet you a pound to a penny he's an IHT reader living in France.)

drunkexpatwriter 7:00 AM
You know, this could almost become an underground game/meme. People could try to get freelance gigs at the Times and then intentionally insert obviously false/misleading information into the stories to see what level of bullshit gets through.
The point of the game would be to see who could become possible for the most ridiculous correction in the Times.
Like, seriously, I'd love to be the dude who writes a story that eventually ends up leading to this type of correction:
"An article appearing in last Sunday's Times Magazine about Hollywood celebrities contained information that was skewed by our contributor, Bart Calendar, to fit his theme. While Paris Hilton did indeed make a sex tape, she has never said "I'd rather suck a Doberman's cock than lick Alan Arkin's asshole." Instead, she said "I'm thinking about getting a Doberman and appearing in a movie with Alan Rickman." In addition, Lindsay Lohan has battled drug addiction in the past, but did not say "I love shooting heroin with Milley Cyrus." Rather, the actress commented that "I'm going to be the heroine in a new movie they are shooting with Miley Cyrus." Furthermore, representatives of Tom Cruise insist that he never said "I'm a Catholic cockaholic and terrified of tasting tuna, suck my balls you bitches."
The Times regrets these errors.

drunkexpatwriter You know, this could almost become an underground...
4 replies by drunkexpatwriter, zaropa, drunkexpatwriter ...

AlexanderKerensky 7:55 AM
@drunkexpatwriter: That would, indeed, be the best correction ever.
Now the trouble is getting a gig with the Times after saying that.

AlexanderKerensky @ drunkexpatwriter : That would, indeed, be the best...

drunkexpatwriter 8:09 AM
@AlexanderKerensky: Do you think they really check credentials?

drunkexpatwriter @ AlexanderKerensky : Do you think they really check...

zaropa 9:28 AM
@AlexanderKerensky: You dont need a gig at the Times after that, you just go to Fox news.

zaropa @ AlexanderKerensky : You dont need a gig at the Times...

drunkexpatwriter 9:55 AM
@zaropa: But where is the challenge in doing that to Fox News?
Plus, you can't frame a video correction and keep it on your wall.

drunkexpatwriter @ zaropa : But where is the challenge in doing that to...

7:03 AM
veganrampage2 7:03 AM
I find the truth stressful enough.

veganrampage2 I find the truth stressful enough.

7:45 AM
PRIsNotJournalism 7:45 AM
Does that mean he doesn't get paid?

PRIsNotJournalism Does that mean he doesn't get paid?

9:05 AM
plasticene 9:05 AM
Does anyone believe the Times anymore?

plasticene Does anyone believe the Times anymore?

9:34 AM
Aaron Altman 9:34 AM
The ultimate stressor? Commercials for the Times "Weekender" subs.

Aaron Altman The ultimate stressor? Commercials for the Times...

10:45 AM 1 reply
themediatrix 10:45 AM
They have an entire section of articles twisted to fit the suppositions of the reporters. It's called the health section. Terms like "obesity crisis," and "lifestyle choices," and "the study reveals an association between..."
There is a sad lack of science literacy among Times reporters, and as a result, the health and medical writing is all based on givens, and conventional wisdom. They don't understand statistics, and continue to repeat information that is untrue without ever questioning their assumptions.
And I hate that stupid Tara Parker Pope, who can't manage to write anything original. WTF.

themediatrix They have an entire section of articles twisted to fit...
1 reply by themediatrix

themediatrix 11:36 AM
@themediatrix: FOR EXAMPLE, from today:
"One of the best ways to prevent cavities in children is to treat their molars with a dental sealant that protects the teeth..." Really? One of the best? According to...?
Sure, let's not worry about sourcing that "fact," everyone knows it's true, right? Plus, it sets up your whole column for today, right Tara. Actually, one of the best ways of preventing cavities is to keep kids from eating processed carbs and processed sugar, while pumping them full of raw milk [source: weston price]. But hey, it's better to say this other thing so that you can get that blog post pumped out, right?

themediatrix @ themediatrix : FOR EXAMPLE, from today: "One of the...

10:50 AM 1 reply
HK_Guy 10:50 AM
I smell a rat, in the shape of an editor. Editors constantly badger freelancers to torture their quotes to fit some a priori theme in the editor's head. Since freelancers are under such stress to get stories in so they can get paid and go on to the next gig, they eventually succumb. So the freelancer takes the fall for the editor.

HK_Guy I smell a rat, in the shape of an editor. Editors...
1 reply by Seeräuber Jenny

Seeräuber Jenny 12:29 PM
That is a possibility. Perhaps we'll hear more.

Seeräuber Jenny @ HK_Guy : That is a possibility. Perhaps we'll hear...

12:28 PM 1 reply
Seeräuber Jenny 12:28 PM
So the moral of the story is that it's better to just make sh-t up as they do every Thursday and Sunday?
At least the freelancer didn't claim to see Pol Pot masquerading as a Native American who was raised by a ghetto foster mother while engaged in the act of personally carrying aluminum tubes that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.

Seeräuber Jenny So the moral of the story is that it's better to just...
1 reply by HK_Guy


International Herald Tribune
New York Times
The NYT Company

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Rental Apartment in Paris

No comments: