News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Friday, March 4, 2016

NY Times Editorial Page Editor says no news about Trump is being held back. Speculation to the contrary was started by Buzzfeed and picked up by others-NY Times Public Editor, 3/2/16

"What got The Times in trouble was the mixing of purposes (opinion and news), the blending of on- and off-the-record material in a single candidate session and the sharing of the recording — including among those who evidently didn’t care much about an off-the-record agreement...The endorsement interview with Mr. Trump on Jan. 5 was different for two reasons....It was partly on the record because that was Mr. Trump’s preference. This made it fair game for news coverage, particularly after a question arose about Mr. Trump’s stance on tariffs. (The tariff portion of the meeting was on the record.)"...

3/2/16, "How Trump’s ‘Off the Record’ Remarks Crept Out," NY Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivam

"A reader, Ken Fitzpatrick, read about what has been called a secret recording of Donald Trump’s meeting in January with the Times editorial board. On that recording, an article by Buzzfeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith suggests, Mr. Trump says that his extreme position on deporting immigrants is not anything he would necessarily carry out in real, postelection life, but rather might be a starting point for negotiation....

I asked the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, to address the question. He told me that the editorial board’s meetings with presidential candidates are often done on an off-the-record basis, at the candidates’ request. These meetings with candidates are not for the purpose of writing news articles, he emphasized, but are intended as informational sessions for the board so that board members can make observations, challenge the candidate on his or her positions, and eventually consider an endorsement.
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The editorial board, an 18-member group that writes The Times’s editorial positions, is a distinct entity from the reporters and editors in the newsroom. Often, the sessions are recorded so that the board members can refer to the conversations as they make their considerations.

The endorsement interview with Mr. Trump on Jan. 5 was different for two reasons. One, it was attended by Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor, who runs the newsroom staff. He is an occasional guest of the editorial board, he told me Tuesday.

Two, it was partly on the record because that was Mr. Trump’s preference. This made it fair game for news coverage, particularly after a question arose about Mr. Trump’s stance on tariffs. (The tariff portion of the meeting was on the record.)

So that the news side could check that on-the-record information, Mr. Rosenthal sent a digital copy of the recording to a newsroom editor whom he declined to name, with the reminder that there had been an agreement to treat portions of it as off the record.

“These sessions are not about news gathering for stories,” he told me. And, responding to those who are calling for the recording to be released publicly, he said: “It’s not as if we are sitting on a news story here, or holding something back from publication.

Is there a big story here? I don’t know what Mr. Trump said in the meeting, nor do I have access to the recording. If Mr. Trump’s statements are as Buzzfeed describes them, they may not be all that new. Mr. Trump has made similar comments before, including in an on-the-record interview with the Washington Examiner in January. (The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald made reference to this in a piece published Tuesday.)

Mr. Baquet told me that he didn’t know who had spoken to Buzzfeed to describe the off-the-record portion of the session, and that he didn’t intend to pursue it.

“I don’t know how it got out, but I’m certainly not going to do a leak investigation,” Mr. Baquet told me. He also said that he found the idea of an off-the-record agreement when there are “30 people in the room” to be difficult to enforce and probably impractical.
After Buzzfeed’s report, many others followed, often with criticism of The Times’s practices. The Times itself published an article that mentioned the dust-up later Monday.

My take: Having agreed to an off-the-record conversation, The Times (both editorial department and news side) was and is obligated to honor that arrangement, as Mr. Fitzpatrick rightly notes. The trouble here had to do with the mixing of editorial and news side, the mixing of on- and off-the-record, and the well-intentioned but hazardous sharing of a recording that involved off-the-record information.

Should The Times continue to host off-the-record sessions with candidates, so that the editorial board can consider endorsements? I’m certainly no fan of The Times taking information from politicians or government officials that cannot be used or attributed, as I’ve written endlessly. But this opinion-side practice for pre-endorsement meetings is a long-established one that can serve a worthwhile end, if everybody observes the rules.

What got The Times in trouble was the mixing of purposes (opinion and news), the blending of on- and off-the-record material in a single candidate session and the sharing of the recording — including among those who evidently didn’t care much about an off-the-record agreement. All of that amounted to an accident waiting to happen."


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Comment: The NY Times hasn't endorsed a Republican for president since 1956. For those keeping track.


 

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I'm the daughter of an Eagle Scout (fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mets) and a Beauty Queen.