April 1, 2005

Another headache for Okrent

Campus-J has a scoop regarding a recent New York Times article about a Columbia University report exhonerating members of its faculty of antisemitism.

According to the blog, the Times reporter agreed not to interview any students for its story in return for exclusive early access to the report. NYT public editor Dan Okrent is on the case.

Campus-J, which covers Jewish issues on college campuses, is clearly a partisan voice regarding the underlying issue involved (I have not followed and am not really interested in what seems like a fairly run of the mill "hate speech" vs. "academic freedom" squabble) but if it has its facts right about the Times coverage of the story, it's uncovered an egregious violation of journalistic ethics.

Today, however, The Columbia Spectator offers a more nuanced description of the deal between the University and the Times. It says it was offered the same deal, which was that it was not allowed to "spread the report" to people who hadn't seen it. The editor says the "clear implication" was do not interview students about the report, and Okrent's task will be to determine if that's how the reporter understood the deal too (in which case she should have, as the Spectator did, refused). If the Times reporter thought she was allowed to interview students -- and was free to describe the contents of the report as needed to get a quote -- the question then becomes, why didn't she? The obvious answer -- nobody gives a damn what students think -- is, while revealing in its own way, nothing to get Romenesko excited about.

Update: Campus-J's tenacious Steven Weiss gets the runaround from the Times, but Okrent says he's writing about it for next Sunday.

Posted by Daniel Radosh

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