“The goalposts have been moved,” said Dan Gerstein, a former aide to Senator Joseph Lieberman and an informal advisor to the Lieberman campaign.
Mr. Gerstein was referring to the work of the New York Times editorial board, which stunned and dismayed Team Lieberman on July 30 by endorsing the three-term incumbent’s upstart rival in Connecticut’s Democratic primary, Ned Lamont. The Times declared that Mr. Lieberman had “adopted the Bush spin” on Abu Ghraib, that he “never challenges [Republicans] on issues of profound importance,” and that “he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party.”
Mr. Lieberman, accustomed to being praised for his centrist and conciliatory instincts, may have been shocked that The Times would turn on him for his lack of partisan vigor. But it was less a matter of someone moving the goalposts than of Lucy Van Pelt yanking the football away from Charlie Brown yet again.
The question is less how Mr. Lieberman lost The Times than whether he ever had the paper at all. Throughout Mr. Lieberman’s Senate career, the establishment-minded Senator and the establishment newspaper have been in sync only intermittently, at best.
“On issues he awkwardly seeks to position himself both right and left” of his opponent, Times editors wrote, “leaving voters to wonder what kind of Democrat he is.”
That was in 1988, when the opponent was Republican Lowell Weicker. The Times favored Mr. Weicker, saying he “knows no fear in battling the G.O.P.’s right wing.”
So 18 years later, The Times was still looking for someone to clash with the right. This time around, Lieberman campaign spokesperson Marion Steinfels said the candidate’s camp prefers to focus on the fact that Mr. Lieberman went “two for two” on in-state newspaper endorsements over the weekend, picking up the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post; Mr. Gerstein, contradicting the home-fires message a bit, noted that The Washington Post had come out for Mr. Lieberman as well.
But the Times endorsement was the news. It didn’t dispel the notion that Mr. Lamont’s appeal is primarily negative—Lieberman supporter Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, wrote in to The Times to point out that 11 paragraphs of the editorial had been spent on Mr. Lieberman and his demerits, and only one on Mr. Lamont’s merits. What it did was to further certify anti-Liebermanism as a respectable political stance.
“The New York Times is perfectly entitled to its opinion,” Mr. Davis said by phone. “That’s what editorials are all about.”
Meetings between candidates and the Times editorial board are off the record, with staffers on both sides barred from attending; only Mr. Lieberman and the Times editorialists know what passed between them when the candidate met with the board earlier this summer. Editorial-page editor Gail Collins said only that the paper serves coffee and cookies.
“You’d have to ask the candidates about the quality of the cookies,” Ms. Collins said. “I don’t think I had a cookie during either of the senatorial interviews.”
Ms. Collins, who founded the Connecticut State News Bureau earlier in her career, declined to discuss how much weight Times endorsements carry in Connecticut elections. “You should ask someone in Connecticut,” Ms. Collins said.
“The Times endorsement, more than anything, galvanizes the supporters of Lamont who are out there already,” said Michael E. Morrell, an assistant professor of political theory at the University of Connecticut. “But in the end, Tuesday comes down to turnout.”
Back to 43rd Street, then! Mr. Davis said that the length and placement of his letter in The Times suggested the paper “went out of their way to be fair” in presenting his complaint.
The letter ran at more than 270 words, by far the longest on the Aug. 1 page. Was it longer than the usual Times cutoff point? “I don’t know,” Ms. Collins said.
Ms. Collins had more to say about Mr. Lieberman in 2000, when she was writing op-ed columns. Then, after Mr. Lieberman had been named Al Gore’s running mate, she hailed the would-be Vice President as the product of a “golden” era of bipartisanship in Connecticut. “Mr. Lieberman’s ability to rise above party politics is his biggest strength as a legislator,” she wrote.
Six years later, Ms. Collins’ editorial page wrote: “In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.”
The question confronting the Lieberman campaign is whether Mr. Lieberman is the victim of a sudden, unfair backlash, or whether he is the author of his own plunging fortunes.
“What’s most unfortunate about [the editorial] is, most of the criticism of Lieberman in it is premised on a myth,” Mr. Gerstein said. “They were willing to cast aside a national leader with 18 years of experience and all his qualifications, and endorsed a cipher who’s not qualified to be a U.S. Senator, on the assumption that Joe Lieberman has not stood up to the Bush administration on a number of key issues. And it’s just not the case.”
The Times’ editorial paper trail shows less of a sudden reversal. The paper has endorsed Mr. Lieberman for the Senate only once, in 1994, when he was running as a Democratic incumbent. Then, the editors called Mr. Lieberman “a career politician” as a term of praise. “Congress would be a better place if more of his veteran colleagues were as good,” they added.
In 2000, though, careerism became a different issue. The editors hailed Mr. Lieberman’s vice-presidential nomination as a move that “may turn out to be the smartest” by Mr. Gore in the campaign. But then Mr. Lieberman refused to drop out of his Connecticut Senate race while pursuing the Vice Presidency, guaranteeing that if the Gore ticket won, the Republicans would be able to fill his newly abandoned Senate seat.
The Times responded with a scathing editorial, describing Mr. Lieberman’s approach as “hedging his bets in a way that benefits him, of course.”
That was the first installment of a three-editorial crusade, in which the editors called Mr. Lieberman’s justifications “thin and self-serving” and “tortured and self-serving,” describing the two-track candidate as “selfish,” “self-protective” and “hard-headed.”
In the end, The Times declined to offer an endorsement in the Connecticut race at all. Mr. Lieberman stuck with his plan and emerged from the 2000 election debacle as a three-term Senator.
—additional reporting by Josh Benson and Jason Horowitz
On July 27, The New York Times published an A1 story by reporters James Barron and Anemona Hartocollis on the alleged mistreatment of 104-year-old society maven Brooke Astor.
It began with a dramatic setup.
“Once, she and her pearls and her designer dresses were everywhere that was anywhere in New York society: this benefit, that party, this lunch, that dedication,” the opening reads.
By the fourth paragraph, the article was delving into “a bitter intergenerational dispute,” and one which, to use the hated passive voice, “has become public.”
Mrs. Astor’s grandson, Philip Marshall, the newspaper reported (though not for the first time), filed a lawsuit alleging that his father, Anthony Marshall, acted negligently in his role as caretaker for the elderly woman.
This was summed up in the sixth paragraph, where The Times provided a quote from Mrs. Astor’s grandson.
“In court papers, Philip Marshall says that his father ‘has turned a blind eye to her, intentionally and repeatedly ignoring her health, safety, personal and household needs, while enriching himself with millions of dollars.’”
Then the piece detailed Philip Marshall’s request that Anthony Marshall be removed as her legal guardian and replaced with her friend, Annette de la Renta, and ….
Oh, excuse us for a moment while we move to B4.
There we learn that The Times’ quotations of those court documents were from a Daily News article published the day before, which broke the Times story.
“Disaster for Mrs. Astor” was the “wood” in the massively circulated daily the morning of July 26.
We learn that after that story, the court papers were sealed.
And presumably, therefore, not available to Mr. Barron or Ms. Hartocollis.
“The documents were sealed on the day the story appeared in the Daily News,” said Ms. Hartcollis, confirming that she didn’t see them herself. She said she had simply confirmed the Daily News report with Mr. Marshall’s attorney, Ira Salzman, before the piece ran; Mr. Salzman is named in the story, but not as The Times’ source for authenticating the documents.
“We did credit it,” said Craig Whitney, the New York Times standards editor. “Arguably, it would have been better to be on the Page 1 part of the story.”
“I wish somebody had caught it,” he continued, “but I don’t see it as a violation of standards.”
Not that anyone at the News seems very upset.
“The Times story is a long story [and] they did credit the News,” said Helen Peterson, the Daily News reporter who broke the story.
As for being relegated to the middle of the Metro section: “I guess they wish they had it a day earlier,” she said.
Oh, and this:
“Of course the Post didn’t credit us.”
And more in that Tabloid Wars vein comes from Daily News editor in chief Martin Dunn, who acknowledged that at least The Times credited his newspaper—regardless of where it was in the piece.
“Thankfully, we kept our name out of the New York Post,” said Mr. Dunn. “If they had a big story, the chances of us crediting them are between zero and slim—and slim left out.”
“So there is no fucking way we would ever, ever, ever credit them,” he continued. And then, almost as if in an aside to explain the show of bravado: “We’re deadly rivals with them.”
On the morning of July 25, Shalya Hunter spoke to the human-resources department at Time Inc. about where to pick up an ID badge and what time to show up for work the next day. Ms. Hunter, 27, was going to be an associate photo editor at Teen People.
Around 4:30 p.m., Teen People photography director Doris Brautigan called to tell Ms. Hunter that the magazine had folded. After eight and a half years, the paper edition of Teen People ends with next month’s issue; TeenPeople.com will continue on with a reduced editorial staff.
In a press release put out minutes before Ms. Hunter got the phone call, Time Inc. announced the move and declared, “We are taking immediate steps to place as many Teen People magazine employees as possible within Time Inc.”
In the three days following the announcement, roughly 50 staffers met with human resources to explore opportunities within the company, according to a People spokesperson. Since she never actually started, Ms. Hunter hasn’t been offered such assistance.
Ms. Hunter’s previous staff job, which is now still her previous staff job, was at Budget Living. That independent magazine shut down this past February, amid reports that it was for sale.
“Sometimes you have a feeling something is going to go down,” Ms. Hunter recalled of the final days at Budget Living, “but you don’t know when.”
So if closing Teen People was an immediate possibility or even an office rumor, Ms. Hunter said, she understands not being forewarned.
Before joining Budget Living in early 2005, Ms. Hunter worked at Lucky and Home. With that photo experience behind her, she freelanced for Budget Travel and People after losing her Budget Living job. With a friend’s help, Ms. Hunter landed an interview with Teen People in late June, just a few days before she left for a month-long trip to Europe.
“I got the job literally the day I was leaving,” she recalled.
While backpacking through Spain, France, Denmark and England, she once e-mailed Ms. Brautigan “to let her know I was still alive and everything.” Otherwise, Ms. Hunter said, she had planned on “getting mentally prepared” for the photo-editor job upon her arrival back home.
Ms. Hunter, who lives in Boerum Hill, said she has enough money to pay the rent. She said she is a bit “skeeved out” by so many publications going under in 2006 (also including Teen People’s competitor, Elle Girl).
But she said she remained hopeful, even after becoming unemployed without being employed.
“Honestly, if you even worked on staff and you call them, H.R. can only do so much,” said Ms. Hunter. “You have to take it in your own hands.”
How seriously should The Wall Street Journal take Dow Jones’ new round of futurism? For an answer, staffers are checking the seating chart.
On July 13, in a 2,000-word memo, Dow Jones chief executive Rich Zannino and Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz trumpeted a new strategy to help prepare the company and its flagship newspaper for the “Digital Age.” The designated leader of the tech initiative is Paul Ingrassia, the president of Dow Jones newswire.
Instead of taking a spot on the 11th floor of 1 World Financial Center among the corporate brass, Mr. Ingrassia is headed to the ninth floor, in the heart of the Journal newsroom.
Mr. Ingrassia’s future office is currently occupied by assistant managing editor Fred Kempe, who is planning to leave The Journal in September, after 21 years, to head up the Atlantic Council of the United States, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Mr. Ingrassia will be alongside page-one editor Mike Miller, on a wall lined with Journal associate managing editors.
(A Dow Jones spokesperson confirmed that Mr. Ingrassia’s office will be on the ninth floor but did not comment as to its exact location.)
Mr. Ingrassia’s name frequently comes up in speculation about who will succeed Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, who reaches mandatory-retirement age next year. The newsroom favors Journal deputy managing editor Marcus Brauchli, two staffers said, as Mr. Ingrassia has gained a reputation for being a business-driven cost-cutter.
The ninth-floor location would put Mr. Ingrassia in daily contact with the editors that the managing editor oversees; it would also put him under the eye of wary reporters.
One senior Journal staffer suggested that Mr. Ingrassia’s increased presence might indicate the direction of a newsroom unsure of its future.
“There was a great deal of decisiveness when Zannino took over,” said the staffer, “and considerable bloodletting on the business floor. It hasn’t worked that way on the news floor. Everyone loves Steiger, but the lack of clarity of where things are going on the news side has had an impact on people.”
Mr. Ingrassia didn’t return a request for comment.
“I wouldn’t attach too much significance to the question of what happens to my office,” Mr. Kempe said. Mr. Kempe emphasized that recent changes in Journal leadership did not play a part in his decision to leave.
“It was the quality of the job opportunity and not any personal unhappiness with The Wall Street Journal that drove the decision,” Mr. Kempe wrote in an e-mail on July 22. “It remains one of the few great newspapers in the world.”
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