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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trouble at the Times

NY Times put out a piece this week, written by the public editor, regarding the Geraldo Rivera kerfuffle in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To recap the story:
NY Times writer Alessandra Stanley wrote an article on September 5 regarding the news coverage after Katrina. The controversial passage:
“Fox’s Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.”
Sounds just like him, and these kinds of pushy moves are the reason I don't watch him, ever. Except for one minor point. The "nudge" that Stanley describes? It never happened.
Apparently, Rivera denied the allegation, and provided the Times with a copy of all the relevant tape which clears him of such action. Fox News has run all the relevant footage, including outtakes, and there is no evidence whatsoever of a nudge. The Times' Public Editor, Byron Calame, agrees with that assessment, and takes the Times and the original author to task for not issuing a correction to date.
I have been involved in scores of correction disputes over the years at another newspaper, but this one is unusual in that there is very little to argue about. Since Ms. Stanley based her comments on what she saw on the screen Sept. 4, the videotape of that segment means everyone involved is looking at exactly the same evidence.

My viewings of the videotape - at least a dozen times, including one time frame by frame - simply doesn't show me any "nudge" of any Air Force rescuer by Mr. Rivera. (Ms. Stanley declined my invitation to watch the tape with me.) I also reviewed all of the so-called outtakes shot by Mr. Rivera's camera crew at the Holy Angels Apartments in New Orleans on the morning of Sept. 4. Neither the video nor the audio revealed any nudge of an Air Force rescuer.
So on what basis is the Times refusing to publish a correction? From an e-mail sent by Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times to Calame:
"It was a semi-close call, in that the video does not literally show how Mr. Rivera insinuated himself between the wheelchair-bound storm victim and the Air Force rescuers who were waiting to carry her from the building. Whether Mr. Rivera gently edged the airman out of the way with an elbow (literally 'nudged'), or told him to step aside, or threw a body block, or just barged into an opening - it's hard to tell, since it happened just off-camera."
Keller goes on to say that
"frankly," that in light of Mr. Rivera's reaction to the review, Ms. Stanley "would have been justified in assuming" - and therefore writing, apparently - that Mr. Rivera used "brute force" rather than merely a "nudge" on Sept. 4.
So let's get this straight. Since Mr. Rivera is known to have a pushy, showboating style, and there is no tape to prove that he didn't shove, or "nudge" the Air Force rescue worker out of the way, it's perfectly fair to assert that it happened.

The mind boggles.

As Calame writes:
I find it disturbing that any Times editor would come so close to implying - almost in a tit-for-tat sense - that Mr. Rivera's bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions and refuse to correct an unsupported fact.
...Based on the videotape and outtakes I saw, Ms. Stanley certainly would have been entitled to opine that Mr. Rivera's actions were showboating or pushy. But a "nudge" is a fact, not an opinion. And even critics need to keep facts distinct from opinions.
I cannot even begin to imagine how the Times can steadfastly refuse to issue a correction in this situation.

20 Comments:

Blogger Ezzie said...

Wow. The Times takes a step closer to the edge.

Great post.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous REReaderr said...

I don't think it would cause actual pain to anyone at TNYT to publish a correction (hardly anyone reads them anyway), but I have to say that when I read the original article I never assumed it meant a physical nudge. I mean to say, it never even crossed my mind! I automatically assumed the writer was saying, in a rather delicate manner, that he bustled up and inserted himself, and his crew, and his cameras, in the way, preventing the Air Force worker from reaching the woman so he'd have a nice visual.

I don't quite see how that's better than a physical nudge, but hey, what do I know.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Interesting, yet there is something fundamentally unfair about crtiicizing the Times based on the public editor column. Sure they didn't print a correction, yet they did print a several hundred word essay regarding the issue in the week in review section. What's the difference if its termed a corection or something else? I am sure if other papers shone a light on themselves the way the Times does you would see many many more stories like this.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Chaim said...

The NY Times is irrelevant nowadays anyway. Only people on the left even take them mildly serious. This just shows how partisan they are.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

er, there is a correction in today's paper

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/pageoneplus/corrections.html

11:17 AM  
Blogger Chaim said...

That is the most backhanded, stubborn, pathetic correction I've ever read in my life. Ever. They are basically saying, we are only writing this because we've been getting flack, and they admit "On CAMERA" he never nudged. They are pathetic partisan babies.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous uncle moishy said...

Q. for life-of-rubin:

OK, the Times leaves much to be desired. Instead I should be reading what?

12:40 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I think calling the times "irrelevant" is a bit delusional. But I did find their behavior in this case to be stubborn and unfair.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

"hey are basically saying, we are only writing this because we've been getting flack"

THEY ARE GETTING FLACK IN THEIR OWN PAGES!!!

ISN'T THAT SIGNIFICANT?!?!?

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Mike Koplow said...

http://www.regrettheerror.com is a Web site that specializes in newspaper corrections, retractions, etc. You might find it interesting. The Geraldo matter is their main item at the moment.

1:15 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

THEY ARE GETTING FLACK IN THEIR OWN PAGES!!!

ISN'T THAT SIGNIFICANT?!?!?


To some extent, but it also highlights the executive editor's stubborness on this issue. If the criticism is being leveled to such an extent in their own pages, with such certitude and evidence, one has to wonder why they are still holding on so hard, if only by their teeth.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Someone asked what to read instead: I'd say the Wall Street Journal - though it's not "interesting", that's primarily because they report on the 'dry' news itself... and their editorials are excellent.

In general, though, I read a bunch of sites online, from both sides, and then figure out what really happened. Kind of sad that I have to do that to get the truth, but that's what the blogosphere is here for!

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight. Since Mr. Rivera is known to have a pushy, showboating style, and there is no tape to prove that he didn't shove, or "nudge" the Air Force rescue worker out of the way, it's perfectly fair to assert that it happened.

Fake but accurate. Where have we heard that defense before

2:32 PM  
Blogger Chaim said...

uncle moishy said...

Q. for life-of-rubin:

OK, the Times leaves much to be desired. Instead I should be reading what?


Duh ... Read my Blog Instead ...

:-)

OrthoMom, It might be delusional but when I pick up the times I see so many pot shots at the right I can't get past the front page. (ya ya I know, and the left says the same about FoxNews, so I guess there is no answer)

2:38 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

"To some extent, but it also highlights the executive editor's stubborness on this issue."

Exective editor, shmexecutive editor. This is all inside baseball. Bottom line, they are printing these criticisms in their own pages. Call it a "correction" or something else, it's good enough for me.

9:01 PM  
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