I sent the following letter to The New York Times‘ “Public Editor” Clark Hoyt yesterday:
Dear Mr. Hoyt,
I find it curious that you are concerned that it is the blogging side of the Times that may be the problem as you did recently in your column A Private Room with a Public View. In fact, I think the blogging world is keeping the Times more honest than it might otherwise be.
Let me give you a small, albeit personal example.
During the recent presidential campaign the Times ran a long story by Scott Shane who reported that Bill Ayers had no role in the appointment of Barack Obama to the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an important school reform non profit corporation established in Chicago in 1995 by Bill Ayers, among others.
I was interviewed several times by Mr. Shane as he was preparing the story and although he initially offered, for some odd reason, to allow me to talk to him off the record, I chose not to do so. I have been interviewed hundreds of times by the media over the years and that was the first time a reporter started an interview by suggesting I go off the record about material that I had already put in the public domain! I was also interviewed prior to this by two other Times reporters who were also working on stories related to Ayers and Obama, on the record.
I was interviewed because I had done extensive blogging throughout the campaign on the Ayers/Obama relationship with particular attention to the Annenberg Challenge. (At the time I blogged at Global Labor and now blog at King Harvest.)
The Annenberg Challenge was important to the Obama/Ayers story because it was clear to anyone who paid attention to it that if Ayers had a role in naming Obama to the Challenge board it meant that the Ayers/Obama relationship was different than that described by Obama himself. It also meant the relationship was older than the Times had previously reported.
I explained to Mr. Shane that my research demonstrated that Ayers had indeed legal authority to appoint Mr. Obama and that he had exercised that authority. I provided Mr. Shane with the contemporary written documentation that backed up my conclusion, including letters to and from Brown University President Vartan Gregorian and Mr. Ayers. President Gregorian was tasked by Walter Annenberg to help establish the national Annenberg Challenge. Yet Mr. Shane did not mention the material in his story and relied instead on interviews with two other participants in the planning for the Challenge conducted thirteen years after the contemporary written documentation. Even those interviews were inconclusive as I explained to Mr. Shane and that one of the individuals he interviewed had made it clear to another journalist that Ayers had played a role in the appointment process consistent with my analysis.
(David Remnick of The New Yorker has now confirmed Ayers’ role in the appointment of Obama to the Challenge board in his recently published book The Bridge. He relied on unnamed source(s) as he explained in a recent interview on the Milt Rosenberg show.)
Absurdly, after the Times’ story ran and I registered my objections, Mr. Shane had the temerity to suggest to me that “it must be nice” to be a blogger because you can just say anything you want. Yet it was he who quoted people saying “anything they wanted” without providing Times readers the written documentation that would allow them to see what actually happened. I replied to the Shane piece, in a blog, that you can find here: http://stephen-diamond.com/?p=379
Perhaps the Times’ bloggers need to spend some time in the real blogging world, not tethered to a print outlet, where the bloggers I know work hard to get it right.
Stephen F. Diamond